Tuesday, 17 October 2017 08:30

"Matter of Opinion": Sports Column with Matt Harrelson

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Matt Harrelson will be contributing a weekly sports column titled "Matter of Opinion." Matt Harrelson will be contributing a weekly sports column titled "Matter of Opinion."

IT'S TIME TO TAKE LOOK AT RYAN FINLEY

As an avid college football fan, entering this year I knew that North Carolina State's defense would be top-notch behind potential All-American defensive end Bradley Chubb. What many didn't expect (outside of Raleigh) was how well the offense would play, and there's a big reason for that - quarterback Ryan Finley.

The redshirt All-ACC junior transfer from Boise State has managed the Wolfpack to a 6-1 overall record, and an undefeated 4-0 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Perhaps the most impressive thing I've seen from him has been his lack of interceptions in he hasn't thrown one in 313 pass attempts this year, to go along with 11 touchdowns.

He's been able to make short, intermediate and down-the-field throws that has his completion percentage just a tick below 70 percent, and with his size (6-4, 210 pounds), NFL scouts are starting to take notice.

Photo of Ryan Finley courtesy of N.C. State Athletics website.

We all knew about USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen and Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, however the first three listed have seen too many of their passes end up in the hands of the opposition. That's where Finley becomes so impressive.

Yes, he has that 20th ranked dominating defense to go along with an improved offensive line in front of him. He also has running back Nyheim Hines and all-purpose back Jaylen Samuels making plays on offense. But this can be one of those years where all the pieces fall into place for a team that been stuck in mediocrity on the gridiron since, well, as long as I can remember.

Even more impressive, Finley has been extremely efficient against ranked opponents, going a combined 42-63 (66.7 percent) with 597 yards and three touchdowns in the matchups with Florida State and Louisville.

State has a bye this week, but again we'll get to see how Finley stacks up against ranked teams when the Pack will travel to South Bend to take on No. 13 Notre Dame on October 28, and then will host reigning national champion and No. 7 team, Clemson on November 4. With Louisville having a down year, and the Tigers losing to Syracuse this past week, now could be the time for Finley to lead his team to the promised land.

TRIVIA TIME: There are currently three starting quarterbacks in the NFL that are former Wolfpack and a fourth that recently lost his job to a Tar Heel. Name all four. Answer is below.

KO FOR KUECHLY?

On Sunday, Carolina Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond tweeted: "Luke Kuechly is still in the concussion protocol. He has not cleared and his status has not changed."

Although there seems to be some confusion on whether the All-Pro linebacker actually sustained a concussion against the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday, the bottom line remains the same - Kuechly could be done for good.

Photo of Luke Kuechly courtesy of Carolina Panthers website.

With such an emphasis on concussions and CTE in the game today, it's no surprise the Panthers decided to put Kuechly into the protocol even though in my eyes, the hit he took didn't look that bad. But maybe that's the point. It doesn't take much to sustain a concussion, something that football players, coaches, owners, fans and the media are learning more and more about at an alarming rate.

If it turns out, though, that if the Carolina captain does in fact have a concussion, it would be his third in three years and fourth overall that the public knows about. For a 26-year old, that's far too many. Although I'm not a Panthers fan, I do like and have respect for the former Boston College Eagle; a player who perennially either leads the league in tackles or is in the top five.

But at what point does Luke need to bow out to save himself... from himself?

TRIVIA ANSWER: Phillip Rivers of the Los Angeles Chargers, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Jacoby Brissett of the Indianapolis Colts and Mike Glennon of the Chicago Bears (who lost his starting spot to Mitchell Trubisky last week).

Read Matt Harrelson’s weekly sports column “Matter of Opinion” every Tuesday exclusively with the RO.