RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State has had trouble dealing with Boston College even when the Eagles haven’t looked that strong, so the No. 23 Wolfpack know they’ll have their hands full in Saturday afternoon’s ACC game.
The teams meet at Carter-Finley Stadium, with N.C. State just popping into the national rankings and Boston College looking to return to that status.
“We focus on the ‘now’ and they’re a good team right now,” N.C. State defensive end James Smith-Williams said.
The contest pits a pair of teams that would like to show they can contend in the Atlantic Division.
N.C. State (4-0, 1-0 ACC) is aiming for its first 5-0 record since 2002. That would go well heading into an open date before a showdown at No. 4 Clemson.
“If we go win this game and (get to) 5-0, it would be a great position for us,” safety Jarius Morehead said.
BC (4-1, 1-0) has often provided trouble for the Wolfpack. Two years ago in Raleigh, the Eagles snapped a 12-game ACC losing streak with a 21-14 upset victory.
BC was dinged up at several positions in last week’s 45-35 win over Temple. That includes running back AJ Dillon, who leads the ACC in rushing with 130.4 yards per game.
Eagles coach Steve Addazio said it’s too soon to know the availability of certain players until closer to the weekend.
“We got a lot of guys with a lot of dings right now,” Addazio said. “That’s the result of being in a lot of tough games. … You get five games into a tough, physical season.”
Dillon, a sophomore, already has 10 career games with 100 or more rushing yards.
“No matter who’s back there, we’ve got to stop the run,” N.C. State linebacker Germaine Pratt said.
There’s an element of the BC offense that appears more versatile than in the past. The Eagles have connected on several long pass plays to balance the rushing attack.
“They’re getting a lot of big plays, not just from Dillon,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “This will be the best team we’ve played, no doubt.”
To counter Dillon’s potential production, N.C. State has quarterback Ryan Finley, whose 331.2 yard per game of total offense lead the ACC.
“He sees the field well, he throws it really well,” Addazio said. “When your quarterback is one of those elite guys, it usually makes all the difference in the world. They’ve got a good receiving corps, too.”
BC is aiming for a breakthrough as well. A victory would give the Eagles their first 5-1 start since 2008.
“I think we’re heading in a good path,” Addazio said. “I always say this. This is not something new. I fear sometimes in this conference — for everybody, not just us — you got to stay healthy. You start taking on some water with injuries and it really changes the makeup of your team in a hurry.”
BC has scored 216 points — its most through five games in school history, one more point than the 1940 squad.
Addazio said kicker Colton Lichtenberg is on pace to return to action this week after missing time with an injury.
Under Addazio, the Eagles are 3-2 in games against N.C. State, including victories in their past two trips to Raleigh.
“You watch BC year-in and year-out, they give a lot of people tough days,” Doeren said. “Do we see a good BC team every year? Yes. So does everybody else.”
Boston College already has won once this season in the state of North Carolina when it opened ACC play Sept. 13 with a 41-34 triumph at Wake Forest.
The Wolfpack have won six straight games stretching to last season. N.C. State prevailed in its ACC opener for the third year in a row with last week’s 35-21 victory over visiting Virginia.
With fall break beginning at N.C. State, there is concern regarding the student turnout. The Wolfpack often enjoys a considerable homefield advantage with a raucous atmosphere.
“For us to have crowd noise would be huge for us in this game,” Doeren said.