NC State Wolfpack
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
2015 Record: 7-6
2015 Bowl: 51-28 Loss to Mississippi State at Belk Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 6 Offense, 8 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +125000
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +5500
Regular Season over/under: 6 wins
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The NC State Wolfpack did reasonably well considering it had a freshman at QB and a new OC last season. It ranked No. 3 in the ACC in scoring, despite lacking a passing game (just 210.8 yards per game). This season things could get far better with Eli Drinkwitz aboard to help QB Jalan McClendon. Drinkwitz did well with Boise State last season, helping the Broncos finish No. 15 in the nation in scoring with a freshman QB of its own starting.
McClendon and redshirt freshman QB Jakobi Meyers will have a lot of chances to thrive under Drinkwitz. The spread should benefit both QBs and it is a proven scheme that worked as recently as last season.
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Given that the Wolfpack ran the ball well last season (No. 30 in the nation), getting the pass attack going will be the thing needed to make the offense more than competent. NC State averaged 33.2 points per game last season and if that mark can trend upwards a couple more points, it should give the Wolfpack the needed boost to surprise some teams in the ACC this season.
Senior RB Matt Dayes rushed for 865 yards in eight games last season and would have been NC State’s first 1,000 yard rusher in over a decade if not for a foot injury holding him out of the final five games. At WR, the Wolfpack need more from junior Jaylen Samuels, who is officially listed at TE. He led the team with 16 TDs last year and caught 65 passes for 597 yards.
The OL returns just two starters in Tony Adams and Will Richardson, and Drinkwitz is going to have to hope the unit comes together because there is a lot offensive talent that will all be for naught if the blocking is subpar this season. There is enough talent, but it must gel quickly.
NC State ranked No. 29 in the nation in total defense last year, and part of that of course had to do with the relative softness of the ACC. Even so, the Wolfpack improved its defensive attack and it held opponents to just 25.8 points per game last season.
DE Bradley Chubb, DT B.J. Hill and DT Kentavious Street all are juniors this season and give DC Dave Huxtable a lot of versatility and leadership in the front. Junior LBs Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore both should be able to step it up this season and be more productive than a year ago.
The secondary struggled last season, particularly late in the year, and it will have to be smarter and more efficient or the defense could take a step backwards. Last season’s late failures highlighted some scary inadequacies for the Wolfpack.
The Wolfpack are hoping D2-transfer Connor Haskins can fix the kicking game. NC State ranked last in the ACC last season in FG% and second-to-last in FGM. The Wolfpack ranked in the top-20 in kickoff and punt returns, and that should be a strength again with Bra’Lon Cherry and Nyheim Hines back in the mix. Both returned kicks for TDs last year.
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NC State opens the season with some soft games: William and Mary, East Carolina and Old Dominion. Week 4 begins conference play with Wake Forest, but Week 5 brings tough Independent Notre Dame. The schedule is really tough and that might limit an otherwise pretty talented Wolfpack team.
The Wolfpack may have to take a step back this season, and a lot of it as stated has to do with its tough schedule. Oddsmaker 5dimes sets the over/under at 6 wins, and that is not unreasonable. Even so, we like the ‘over,’ ever so slightly, just because Drinkwitz should be able to work the QB magic necessary for the Wolfpack’s offensive attack to reach its full potential.
Prediction: 7 wins
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