Three Individual Battles to Watch Against Wake Forest

Brett Friedlander

Football might be a team sport, but it's usually the culmination of individual battles that determine the outcome of games.

Here are three of those battles to keep an eye on when NC State takes on Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium:

State's offensive line vs. Wake Forest's Carlos Basham: The Wolfpack's line is one of its biggest strengths, with experienced veterans at every position. But even the quintet of Ickey Ekwonu, Grant Gibson, Joe Sculthrope, Tyrone Riley and Justin Witt are going to have their hands full trying to keep Basham out of their backfield.

Basham, who goes by the nickname Boogie, is a potential first round NFL draft pick who has recorded at least one tackle for loss in each of his last 19 games, including last week against Clemson. That's the longest such streak in the nation. Look for him to line up over Riley and test the sixth-year graduate tackle, who missed all last year with a foot injury.

Carlos Basham rushing Ryan Finley
Carlos Basham rushing Ryan Finley in 2018

Special teams vs. Special teams: Two of the nation's best placekickers will be on display in this game, but unless it comes down to a last-second field goal attempt, it's the other aspects of special teams that are likely to be decisive.

Field position played a major factor in last year's game, especially when the Wolfpack started turning the ball over, and it was Deacons punter Dom Maggio that had a lot to do with pinning State back in its own territory. Maggio is gone, but his successor Ivan Mora is just as important. The Wolfpack's All-ACC caliber punter Trenton Gill can be just as big a weapon.

State's coverage teams also can't sleep on the Deacons. They averaged 27 yards per kickoff return and 12.7 yards per punt return in last week's season opening loss to Clemson.

Trenton Gill from behind
Wolfpack punter Trenton GillNC State athletics photo

Devin Leary vs. Devin Leary: The redshirt sophomore has drawn rave reviews from his coaching staff and teammates for the growth he's shown as a leader and on the field since being named the Wolfpack's starting quarterback last spring. But he still has to prove himself in a game after completing only 48.1 percent of his passes in six games last year.

Getting off to a strong start would go a long way toward building on the momentum he gained during the offseason, especially against a Wake secondary that stuggled in its debut performance last week.

Devin Leary tight shot
Greg M. Cooper/USAToday sports

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