RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Two straight home games had two wildly different outcomes for North Carolina State. The Wolfpack beat the ACC's best team, then lost to one of its worst.

So how they perform Saturday against middle-of-the-pack Wake Forest will determine which team will lock up a bowl berth and which will still have some work to do.

It's been a maddening stretch recently for N.C. State (5-4, 2-3), which was in control of the Atlantic Division after its stunning upset of then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6.

In their next home game, though, the Wolfpack were thoroughly dominated by a last-place Virginia team in a 33-6 thumping that led to plenty of second-guessing.

"It's mental. It's a matter of getting yourself ready to play and playing the best that we can. That's where the change has to come," coach Tom O'Brien said. "For whatever reason, we didn't show up and play the way we are capable of playing last Saturday, and it's on us to get ourselves back to the way we were playing the previous four weeks before that.

"If that happens then we are going to put ourselves in a position to win."

The good news for the Wolfpack is that the game against the Demon Deacons (5-4, 3-4) is at home because the host team has dominated this series lately. While Wake Forest has won five straight meetings in Winston-Salem, N.C. State has won 12 of 13 on its home turf.

"We've always, for whatever reason, had a tough time going over to Raleigh and playing," coach Jim Grobe said. "When you go on the road in this league, you've got to pretty much steal a base to get a win."

The winner will become the fourth bowl-eligible team in a conference that has at least eight contracted postseason slots. N.C. State is seeking its third straight bowl appearance while Wake Forest is trying to get to its second.

"They're sitting at 5-4 like us and they need one more to be bowl eligible," Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro said. "I think we have kind of the same attitude going up there. ... We know that we need one more as well. It's a huge game. ... I think the team's definitely going to be amped up for this one."

This one marks the best chance for the Demon Deacons to reach bowl eligibility because their next two games are against No. 4 Notre Dame and a Vanderbilt team that routed them 41-7 last year. N.C. State, which visits 10th-ranked Clemson next week, figures to be a heavy favorite in the finale against cellar-dwelling Boston College.

Then again, the Wolfpack were expected to beat Virginia, too — and they know how that turned out.

"I absolutely think that we can win all these games down the stretch and finish out this year strong," N.C. State safety Brandan Bishop said. "But we need to win one first."

This one could come down to whether Wake Forest's revived passing game can move the ball against a Wolfpack secondary that on paper is one of the nation's best.

Campanaro, who missed two games with a broken hand, matched an ACC record with 16 receptions and scored three touchdowns in a 28-14 win over BC. Quarterback Tanner Price had career highs of 39 completions and 57 attempts.

The Wolfpack hope a pass defense that features All-American cornerback David Amerson can stop them. N.C. State ranks last in the league against the pass, allowing 269 yards per game through the air.

And they've proven vulnerable to trick plays, too, giving up two touchdowns on end-around runs and would have allowed a third on a halfback pass — had the Virginia quarterback not dropped the ball in the end zone. Unorthodox plays are seemingly always a part of the Wake Forest playbook, with one of Campanaro's two career touchdown passes coming in last year's matchup.

"When you play Wake Forest, you have to work on what we call special plays," O'Brien said. "You have to try to balance the approach because if you don't go against their base runs or base passes and you spend too much time on specials and you don't stop the base stuff, you'll never see the specials."