As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Tuesday over the summer. SU will continue its 2014 ACC conference schedule when they play NC State on Nov. 1.
TURNAROUND SEASON?: Little went right for head coach Dave Doeren in his first year with the Wolfpack. After starting the season 3-1 (albeit with three wins against inferior competition), North Carolina State went winless in ACC play for the first time since 1959. NC State finished 99th in Division I in scoring at an anemic 22.8 points per game, while it struggled to find a steady passing game. But the Wolfpack are primed for a bounce back season in Doeren’s second season. The Wolfpack once again have a cupcake non-conference schedule with games against Ga. Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida and Presbyterian. Although NC State may struggle again in conference, it may easily find itself 4-0 and in need of just two wins to qualify for the bowl season.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: The Wolfpack vacillated between quarterbacks Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell in 2013, and the two struggled, combining for 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That led to NC State finishing 58th in the FBS in passing. That number will dramatically improve this season with Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett coming in as the undisputed starting quarterback. On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has switched over to a nickel based defense to counter the proliferation of spread offenses in the ACC. That will mean plenty of opportunities in the secondary for returning defensive back Jarvis Byrd, who missed most of last season after tearing his ACL. He returns for a sixth season after being granted an additional season in March.
PREDICTION: Sure, Doeren’s 3-9 (0-8 ACC) record wasn’t the way he wanted to start, but the Wolfpack were never overmatched in any of their nine losses with the exception of FSU and Maryland. Even in a 24-10 loss to Syracuse, NC State hung around until the closing minutes. The Wolfpack will certainly be improved this year, and should prove to be a formidable foe. SYRACUSE 21, NC STATE 20.