As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will open its 2017 ACC conference slate when it plays NC State on Sept. 30.
HOT SEAT FOR DOEREN?: Fans are getting a bit restless in Raleigh. Though head coach Dave Doeren, now in his fifth season, has brought the team to three straight bowl appearances, it hasn’t obscured other problems. The issues include a lack of a signature win, three straight 3-5 seasons in conference play and lackluster play at home. Doeren and company nearly got that upset win against Clemson and also Florida State in 2016, and a win like that in 2017 plus a major bowl game appearance would go a long way to keeping him off the hot seat. This would be the season to break through, with a senior-laden team featuring one of the elite defensive fronts not only in the ACC, but perhaps all of college football.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: At this time last year, NC State was in the middle of a quarterback battle between Boise State transfer Ryan Finley and Jalan McClendon. Finley ended up winning the starting job, though the Wolfpack will need him to become more steady this season. Though he threw for 3,059 yards and 18 touchdowns, he was dreadful in NC State’s five losses, throwing a combined eight interceptions. Finley should improve just from the protection in front of him. Four starters return from the 2016 season, including All-ACC guard Tony Adams. The defensive line will be even more formidable with four seniors of their own. That elite unit is led by potential 2018 first round pick Bradley Chubb. It was coup to get Chubb to return, as the All-ACC performer led the team in tackles for a loss (22) and sacks (10.5).
PREDICTION: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention NC State’s do-it-all-guy on offense, Jaylen Samuels. He’s been listed as a tight end, fullback and slot receiver, and is another key senior on NC State’s offense. With all of the experienced talent returning, there’s some talk about the Wolkpack making some noise in the ultra-competitive ACC Atlantic Division. NC State 35, SYRACUSE 28.