|NC Central’s ball-hawking defense has helped it win three of its last four games. (News And Observer photo)|
South Carolina State at North Carolina Central: These two teams enter Thursday night’s game on a tear, having won a combined seven of their last eight games, the lone loss being NCCU’s 35-17 to FCS power Towson. Both are coming off impressive victories, SC State over rival NC A&T in Atlanta and NCCU a solid win over Howard in Washington D.C. The Eagles won the last matchup, shocking the Bulldogs 40-16 in the Circle City Classic.
Quarterback Battle: One of the story lines to watch in this game will be the quarterbacks: South Carolina State’s Richard Cue and NC Central’s Jordan Reid. As redshirt seniors, both are seasoned vets, and both have rebounded from uneven 2012 seasons to lead their teams to winning records through the first half of 2013. Reid is the more mobile of the two, but Cue can move around as well. Both quarterbacks will have to be precise with the ball, as SC State (9) and NC Central (8) are at the top of the MEAC in terms of interceptions.
Air Raid: While NC Central has been great at creating turnovers, it has had trouble defending the pass at times. Last week, Howard’s Jonathan Booker caught three touchdowns against NCCU. And it won’t get for them as they face the MEAC’s top receiver, SC State’s Tyler McDonald. The 6’3, 200 pound McDonald averages an eye-popping 31.5 yards per catch and has five touchdowns so far. NCCU will have to make sure he is covered at all times.
Prediction: This game could go either way. SC State looks to be the more talented team overall, but not to overwhelmingly so. As they were last week, special teams will have to be the equalizer for NCCU if they are to pull up the upset. If I’m SC State, I’m trying to throw the knockout punch early. NCCU is a resilient team that finds a way to win games even when its offense isn’t clicking and its defense gives up a lot of yards.
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