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Three things to watch: North Carolina State

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Will this be the week that Miami gets the running game going again?

Miami Hurricanes receiver Keyshawn Smith (88) is pursued by Clemson’s Tyler Venables (12) in the fourth quarter of Miami’s loss to Clemson in October.
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes are back in action tonight when they take on North Carolina State at 7:30pm in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes (5-1) have won two games in a row while the Wolfpack (4-2) are coming off of a lopsided 48-21 loss to rival North Carolina. Both teams were off last week and had an extra week to prepare for tonight’s game.

Miami was listed as a 10.5-point favorite on Thursday night by Bovada.

What are three things to keep an eye on during this seemingly winnable road game for Miami? Keep reading to find out.

Will Miami be prepared for two NC State quarterbacks?

Miami catches a huge break tonight as it will not have to face North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary. Leary is out with a leg injury.

The New Jersey native is by far North Carolina State’s best quarterback.

Quarterbacks Bailey Hockman and Ben Finley have attempted to replace Leary. Both played in the Wolfpack’s blowout loss to rival North Carolina and neither played particularly well.

Hockman, who transferred in from Florida State, is expected to start tonight for the Wolfpack but Finley is expected to play as well.

While this is very different than Virginia’s multiple quarterback situation almost two weeks ago, the Hurricanes need to be prepared to stop both of these Wolfpack quarterbacks.

North Carolina State is also coming off of a bye week and will likely have a few offensive wrinkles that Miami has not yet seen on film, just like Virginia did.

If the Hurricanes can survive those wrinkles and consistently pressure whoever is under center for the Wolfpack, it is going to be tough for North Carolina State to consistently score on Miami’s defense.

The Wolfpack managed just 21 points against North Carolina, which certainly is not known for its vaunted defense, in their only game without Leary this season. Seven of those 21 points came in garbage time when North Carolina State was down 34 points in the fourth quarter.

If Miami has effectively used the bye week to prepare for both Wolfpack quarterbacks, the Hurricanes should be successful on defense tonight.

Be ready to run, D’Eriq

North Carolina State averages 182 rushing yards allowed per game thus far this season. That ranks 76th of 113 FBS teams who have played at least one game.

Quarterbacks specifically have presented problems for the Wolfpack. Four different quarterbacks have rushed for 40 or more yards against North Carolina State this season.

This would seem to be an outstanding opportunity for Miami to get its running game going and for quarterback D’Eriq King to potentially change this game with his legs.

Miami struggled to run the ball effectively during the month of October after running the ball extremely well in its first three games of the season.

King has been effective scrambling on passing downs this year but has not kept the ball on designed runs as much as some would have expected. Might this be the week the Hurricanes turn King loose and let him run more?

Next Man Up?

Every week, Miami releases an unavailability report roughly an hour before the game that details which Hurricane players are unavailable to participate in the game.

How will Miami do with the unavailability report this week?

Rumors have swirled around the program for the past week or so about players who may or may not be available to play tonight. This is not the place for me to comment on those rumors or speculate on the health of any of Miami’s student-athletes.

The fact is this: the Hurricanes have enough healthy players to participate in tonight’s game or they would not have made the trip to Raleigh.

Whoever suits up tonight needs to be mentally and physically prepared to fill in for any other player who is not able to.

Players and coaches unexpectedly missing games is an unfortunate fact of the 2020 college football season.

Clemson is missing star quarterback Trevor Lawrence this weekend in its biggest game of the season at Notre Dame. Florida State head coach Mike Norvell was in quarantine and could not coach in his team’s rivalry game against Miami.

The Hurricanes have been fortunate to have the majority of their key players available all year. Let’s hope things stay that way for tonight’s game.