North Carolina State was a hard team to figure out in 2016 and never really found its identity until the final couple Games. The Wolfpack lost early to East Carolina, then beat Wake Forest and Notre Dame before a losing streak that includeda home loss to Boston College. To close the season, they won at North Carolina and then dominated Vanderbilt in their bowl Game. With a lot of returning starters, the hope will be for more consistency this season.
On the offensive end, the Wolfpack should have enough to improve on their 27 points per Game and that starts with quarterback Ryan Finley (60.4% completion, 18 TDs, 8 INTs) and his top receivers in Stephen Louis (678 yards), Jaylen Samuels (55 receptions, 7 TDs) and Nyheim Hines (525 yards). The biggest hole on offense is at running back where Matthew Dayes is gone. Reggie Gallaspy is next in line, but he’s not a guarantee to match what Dayes did a year ago (1,166 yards, 10 TDs), although Samuels and Hines should help some. But to move things along, the line returns Four of its starters and that should be all that Finley needs to improve on last year’s mediocre campaign.
It’s the same situation on the defensive side with eight starters back from a group that allowed 23.3 points per Game. The line is stocked with talent starting with ends Bradley Chubb, Darian Roseboro and Kentavius Street, but it doesn’t end there. Senior linebackers Airius Moore and Jerod Fernandez bring tons of experience and if the front seven improves from last year, the lack of talent on the back end may not be as noticeable. Either way, this side of the ball has the players to make an impact in the ACC.
And the size of that impact will be found out early, starting with South Carolina in the opener and then traveling to Florida State at the end of September. A trip to Notre Dame doesn’t help before having to play Clemson, but otherwise, everything else is fairly favorable for the Wolfpack. OUtside of that FSU Game, their other three road Games are winnable at Pitt, BC and Wake. An upset of Louisville isn’t out of the cards, even after getting demolished a season ago.
NC State has decent odds (+2300 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the ACC so it wouldn’t be that crazy to see them steal the Atlantic division from the giants. Still, they are expected to be a level behind the top three teams in the division. With more consistency, eight wins in the regular season isn’t a stretch and if QB Finley turns it up a notch, nine could even be possible before a bowl Game. Obviously, that’s a lofty goal, but they have experience and showed plenty of potential last season.
2017 NC State Wolfpack Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. South Carolina
Sept. 9 vs. Marshall
Sept. 16 vs. Furman
Sept. 23 at Florida State
Sept. 30 vs. Syracuse
Oct. 5 vs. Louisville
Oct. 14 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 28 at Notre Dame
Nov. 4 vs. Clemson
Nov. 11 at Boston College
Nov. 18 at Wake Forest
Nov. 25 vs. North Carolina