2014 NC State Wolfpack Schedule Analysis: Games 1-6

North Carolina State will look to improve on a 3-9 2013 campaign that included an eight-game losing streak to end the season. Second-year head coach Dave Doeren will look for his first conference win, momentum, and positives.

The Wolfpack return 7 starters on each side of the ball, including leading rusher Shadrach Thornton. WR Bryan Underwood returns and figures to be a top target for Florida transfer QB Jacoby Brissett.

Coach Doeren will look to utilize the attack he employed at Northern Illinois, adding a duel threat QB with some size into the mix (Brissett is listed at 6-4, 231).

The Pack’s three wins last season were against LA Tech, Richmond, and Central Michigan, who went a combined 16-20. They’ll get a chance to equal that number in the first four weeks in 2014 with three home games against non-Power Five conference opponents. In the mix is a non-conference road game against the AAC’s South Florida. The defense will need to improve, having allowed at least 24 points in every ACC game last year.

For information purposes, all Wolfpack games this season are on Saturday, times (if listed) are ET. If ranked, the number reflects the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll. The spreads listed are from the Golden Nugget’s Games of the Year lines that came out this summer, highlighting their top games of each week and opening betting lines.


NC State Wolfpack Schedule Analysis:  Games 1-6

Game 1: vs. Georgia Southern, August 30, 12:30 PM, ACC Network, ESPN3

GA Southern made a big impact in its last FCS season by beating Florida in The Swamp. Yes, the Gators had a down year, punctuated by a loss to a team from a second-tier division, but beating any SEC team on their own turf is a red flag for NC State as they welcome the Eagles in their first FBS season. The home opener against a Sun Belt foe should get the Wolfpack off to 1-0. Taking a team lightly when they’ve tasted upset victory would be a mistake, but Doeren will have them ready. The Wolfpack’s first two games are winnable, and would get them one win away from their 2013 total.

Game 2: vs. Old Dominion, September 6, 6:00 PM, ESPN3

The Wolfpack welcomes its second relative newcomer to FBS to take on the Monarchs. State will score on ODU, and should be able to hold them at bay defensively. If NC State comes out focused for the first two weeks, takes advantage of teams heading into the deep end of college football, and scores touchdowns, they should be 2-0 on the season before getting a road test. NC State 2-0 overall.

Game 3: at South Florida, September 13, 3:30 PM, CBSSN

This will be NC State’s offense vs. USF’s defense. Neither could get their squads in sync last season, which led to 3 wins and 2 wins for the Wolfpack and Bulls, respectively. The game, State’s first on the road, is in Tampa where second year coach Willie Taggart is looking to improve as well. The Bulls were ranked 123rd in points scored last year, and if the Wolfpack D can hold USF in the single digits, they might stand a chance in a low-scoring affair.

Given the anemic quality of USF’s O, and State’s troubles on D, this may be an even match. Something will have to give, and I think the Pack can move the ball against the stingy Bulls just enough to steal a road game. This could go either way, and don’t look for a lot of points. NC State moves to 3-0, equaling the wins from 2013.

Game 4: vs. Presbyterian, September 20

State should handle the Blue Hose (love that nickname) as they did their first two home opponents, and be back on the winning track. They’ll need to take advantage of the first half slate, as the tough stretch begins next week. Getting to 4-0 on the season before conference play starts is imperative. If they can do this, NC State would need only 2 conference wins to gain bowl eligibility. Yet, after getting zero ACC wins a year ago, even this may be a tall task. State 4-0 overall.

Game 5: vs. #1 Florida State, September 27, Favorite: FSU -30

NC State will try to replicate the last time FSU visited Raleigh in a stunning 17-16 victory that helped get the Wolfpack in position for a bowl game. This, however, may be more similar to a repeat of the 49-17 burial in Tallahassee last season. I think the Wolfpack can fly high on the heels of a four game win streak to start the year, but conference play won’t be kind to them. State needs wins while they can get them, because I don’t see an upset here. 4-1 overall (0-1 ACC).

Game 6: at #16 Clemson, October 4, Favorite: Clemson -23

Visiting Death Valley will not help the Wolfpack right the ship. I expect Clemson to put this one away early. State just does not have the firepower to keep up with them. The season will start slowly, ramp up for two weeks, and then NC State can get back to trying to win, instead of just hang in. Down to 4-2 (0-2 ACC).

If the Wolfpack handles the games they are favored in, they can get at least three wins in the first half. I’d bet South Florida will be favored in Tampa, but it wouldn’t be a huge upset if NC State could pull it off. Getting to four wins may be the high point of the year, because the second half will not be kind, and a bowl game may be a stretch.


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