After losing to Boston College, 45-24, NC State (4-3, 1-2 ACC) had a much-needed bye week. However, the Wolfpack hits the road again this week for an in-state battle with Atlantic Division rival Wake Forest, which is 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the ACC, and ranked No. 23 in the country by the Associated Press.
According to Vegas Insider, the Demon Deacons opened as a seven-point favorite Sunday and the total for the game is 59.5.
Like the Wolfpack, the Deacs are coming off a bye week. Through its first seven games, Wake Forest’s offense has been the biggest reason for its success. The Deacs are second in the conference in both points per game (37.1) and yardage (523.9).
Redshirt junior signal-caller Jamie Newman was sensational through six games, completing 144-of-209 passes for 1,772 yards and 17 touchdowns and five interceptions, while leading the ACC in passing efficiency. But he missed Wake’s 22-20 win over Florida State a few weeks ago with a shoulder injury and there’s no official word at this time whether or not he’ll play.
If he can’t go, Wake Forest has arguably one of the top backup quarterbacks in the country in sophomore Sam Hartman, who threw for over 300 yards in a 22-20 victory against Florida State last weekend.
Regardless of who lines up at center, he’ll have two of the ACC’s best receivers at his disposal in sophomore Sage Surratt, who has 53 receptions for 881 yards and nine touchdowns, and senior Scotty Washington, who has 32 receptions for 523 yards and seven scores.
The Deacs are averaging 196 yards on the ground and senior Cade Carney is the team’s top rusher with 351 yards in five games.
Defensively, Wake Forest has been up and down, and currently ranks 10th in the ACC, allowing 419.3 yards per game. The Deacs also recently lost their top defensive player — redshirt senior linebacker Justin Strnad — to a torn bicep.
State leads the all-time series 66-40, but Wake Forest has won the last two.
Kickoff is set for noon and the game can be seen on ESPN.Over the course of the preseason, there have been an abundance of questions/concerns surrounding this NC State roster despite being deep with talent. The suspension of DJ Funderburk and departure of Blake Harris threw a monkey wrench into what should’ve been a smooth start to the season. One of the steady forces of this team, however, has been the interior presence of redshirt freshman Manny Bates.
After a 2018-19 offseason where shoulder issues that plagued him during his senior year of high school, Bates would ultimately redshirt due to the injury and was looking for a fresh start for the 2019-20 season.
The energy surrounding Bates’ return to the court has been evident throughout the coaching staff in preseason media availability and the other players on the roster. Combine that with the DJ Funderburk suspension and there’s a real need for Bates to be on the court playing starter minutes.
In his first live game action at PNC Arena, Bates showed flashes of his innate ability to protect the rim and provide a true interior presence on the defensive end that Kevin Keatts’ teams have lacked in his first two years in Raleigh.
Against Mount Olive in the lone exhibition, Bates left his mark, finishing with 10 points on 5-of-6 from the field to go with four rebounds and six blocks. It was clear he was excited to play in front of the home fans for the first time and his coach was even happier for him.
“Man I’m just happy. That kid went through so much. For him to be able to get out on the floor for the first time in PNC.” Keatts said. “He deserves to play. I’m excited about him. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be one of the better players that plays in his position.”
Maintaining Bates’ health is a concern for this coaching staff, but right now he’s completely healthy. With supportive sleeves on his shoulders, Bates played the game with a fearless energy. He contested everything he could at the rim and was really active on the offensive end, catching lobs and finishing around the rim with incredible efficiency.
“Last year we didn’t like really have a true big man,” Devon Daniels said. “I think Manny brings that to us and we definitely needed that. He protects the rim well, rolls to the rim well, and he helps us a lot.”
It’s clear Bates provides that anchor that is so necessary in the pressing defensive system that Keatts employs. It allows the guards and wings to really get after it when trying to force turnovers when the safety net of rim protection is behind you.
Expect Bates’ impact to go well beyond the stat sheet. He produced well, but the freedom he gives the other four guys on the court cannot go understated.
“I’m beyond ready.” Bates said during Media Day. “For a little bit it did bring down my confidence, but now my confidence is back.”
It’s clear that Bates has had to overcome a mental and physical battle to get back on the court, but for now the only thing he has to worry about is Georgia Tech. He’s going to be tasked with a major responsibility in guarding experienced big man James Banks, but Bates is excited about the challenges ahead.
“I mean we are talking about one of the nicest kids you’re going to meet,” Keatts said of Bates. “Like I told you, it was a little emotional for me just to have the opportunity to watch him play.”
This entire program is rallying around Bates as he is finally back on the court after a two years absence. It comes at the perfect time where it appears State will need him and his shot-blocking abilities more than ever.
We’ll see how Bates’ role changes when Funderburk returns, but it’s clear he has a place in this NC State rotation moving forward, especially if he can protect the rim like he did in the preseason.
NC State’s 2020 class has 15 commit, so spots are limited. However, one area the Wolfpack hopes to address is offensive line, as State’s expected to add at least one more in this cycle.
Matthews (N.C.) Butler’s Anthony Carter Jr. is among State’s top targets at the position.
“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on the season,” said the 6-foot-4, 296-pound Carter. “But at the same time, I have to make a move at some point. The plan is to still try and enroll early.
“I’m talking to NC State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Michigan State. I’d say I’m in contact with NC State and Michigan State the most and I’ll definitely take official visits to both. It means a lot that those two are showing so much interest.”
Most of the aforementioned contact with the Wolfpack’s staff has been with offensive line coach John Garrison.
“We’ve mostly been talking about me getting up there to visit again and the environment at NC State,” Carter Jr. said. “I’m not sure when it’ll be, I have to check with my parents. But the visit will likely be after the season.
“My relationship with coach Garrison’s been building — he’s a great guy. I’ve been able to build that bond with him — just talking about continuing to play at a high level, and enrolling early.
“Coach Garrison’s a down-to-earth guy and he really cares about his players. He’s been telling me I’m a very important target in this recruiting class. We usually talk on the phone once a week.”
Carter Jr.’s contact with NC State isn’t limited to Garrison. Head coach Dave Doeren has also played an active role in Carter Jr.’s recruitment.
“He’s been telling me about the atmosphere at NC State and how he wants me to come visit,” Carter Jr. said. “I feel comfortable talking to him and it’s easy to have a conversation with coach Doeren. It means a lot when a head coach tells you he wants you.”
Carter Jr. doesn’t have a date for his commitment, but knows what he’s looking for at the next level.
After yet another bye week for NC State to rest, the Wolfpack will travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest in the oldest rivalry for both programs. The Pack (4-3, 1-2 ACC) is coming off a rough road loss to Boston College while the Demon Deacons (6-1, 2-1 ACC) are the No. 23 team in the country after a home win against Florida State prior to the bye week.
State has thrived at home this season with an unblemished 4-0 record, but has not won a game on the road in three tries thus far. That will be tested again on Saturday against a Wake team that has gone 4-1 at home with the lone loss to Louisville in a 62-59 shootout after the Deacs lost starting quarterback Jamie Newman midway through the game.
“Great environment, great people, a chance to come in and earn early playing, and a school that offers a great education,” said Carter Jr.
The Butler standout is a three-star prospect, No. 38 offensive guard in the country and 22nd-ranked prospect in North Carolina according to 247Sports.