BC returns home to take on #22 NC State under the lights. Both teams are 4-1 and coming off a bye week.
Backing the Pack’s Steven Muma was kind enough to answer some questions ahead of Saturday night’s game. You can check out all the great content on NC State at Backing the Pack and give Steven a follow here.
BCI: You finally took out big brother. NC State bested Clemson, despite some kicking woes that tried to give it away. How big was that win for the program and HC Dave Doeren?
BTP: In terms of getting the monkey off his back and also getting one over on Dabo, I think it meant a lot to Doeren, because those guys do have some less-than-friendly history between them and Doeren had been oh-so-close to beating Clemson before.
How important it was for the program remains to be seen, but among the knocks against Doeren within the fanbase was his lack of big-time wins. He needed this one to subdue that criticism and just put a jolt of energy back into the fanbase.
BCI: The Wolfpack are now #22 in the country. 4-1 with the only loss being to Mississippi State. The college football polls have been a special kind of weird this season. Is the AP being too generous, still overlooking, or hitting the nail on the head with this ranking in the current landscape?
BTP: I would say the polls overstate NC State’s quality up to this point in the season but these days those particular polls are only good for fun facts in game notes and contract negotiations. To your point about the landscape, though, there’s so much inconsistency week to week from most teams that I’m not about to waste energy quibbling with which teams are ranked between like 15 and 25.
But still, it’s a nice feeling to see your team ranked. And it does still bring a little bit of added national attention, which is something I guess.
BCI: It’s the first time in a long time that ACC really feels wide open. Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are also currently ranked, but we’re only on the cusp of conference play. What will constitute success for the rest of the year? What are the expectations after this impressive start?
BTP: I think it’s fair to say that anything less than eight wins would feel like a disappointment—maybe anything less than nine wins. While I recognize that there isn’t a lot separating NC State from most of the teams left on its schedule, and with three of the next four on the road, which is never easy, no doubt there is a huge opportunity over the next month. Especially with Boston College and Miami down their first-string quarterbacks.
But I can see and potentially accept a wide range of results. I mean, BC may be down its starting quarterback, but the line on this game is still narrow, the margin still small. It’d hardly be inexcusable to lose this game. Disappointing, maybe, but not inexcusable. I could say that for several games the rest of the way. This conference is dumb as hell.
BCI: There have been a couple of key defensive injuries this season, but by and large the defense has played really well this season. Who and what do you attribute the success to?
BTP: It really just boils down to having the depth to overcome these setbacks. In the past, losing a guy in the secondary or a star linebacker would have been a significant blow to what would have been only an average defense with them anyway. This season, NC State is as deep in the secondary as it has ever been under Dave Doeren, and it has two other really good linebackers in Isaiah Moore and Drake Thomas who are able to effectively compensate for Payton Wilson’s absence.
Even up front, NC State has multiple guys at tackle and end that it feels confident can make plays in larger roles, which again has been necessary. And I’d say in general, they’ve avoided in the injury bug better than they have in the last couple of years.
BCI: Offensively, quarterback Devin Leary has been exceedingly efficient and may just be on his way to putting his name alongside a quite impressive list of NC State quarterbacks. What does he and the offense as a whole do best?
BTP: Leary is getting more and more comfortable and having the continuity of being in there every week—he’s already played more games this season than he did in 2020—is growing his confidence. It helps that he has a lot of veterans around him, both at receiver and running back. Guys he’s been playing with his entire career and guys he knows he can trust.
The offense could stand to make more explosive plays and the ground game still disappears for stretches, but this unit generally doesn’t get in its own way with mistakes, and Leary has been a good decision-maker through the air.
The Wolfpack can present defenses with a lot of different looks because it has good slot receivers and also a couple of big, physical targets on the outside who can go win 50-50 balls. And Leary, like Ryan Finley before him, is good at understanding and throwing to his guys’ strengths.
BCI: Alright, Saturday night, what’s your final score prediction? Both teams are coming off a bye and have each only played Clemson in the conference. It seems like this series goes back and forth regardless of how the teams are doing otherwise. How does this one play out?
BTP: Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. I will say I’m glad that this isn’t NC State’s first game after beating Clemson—that’s over with and the whole “letdown after a big game” talk isn’t hovering around the program all week. Obviously a lot depends on how BC runs the ball, and it feels like NC State has the defense to stack up well. But we’ll see. State’s had plenty of nightmare performances in Chestnut Hill over years.
I dunno, give me, oh let’s say … NC State 28, Boston College 24.