After the home contest against Duke, Jeff Hafley’s team hits the road for the next two games. The preseason #13 team in the country awaits on November 12th. This ties the program’s highest ever preseason ranking. Dave Doeren is entering his tenth season in charge. In the past eight years, his team has the second most wins in the ACC.
The Wolfpack went 7-0 at home, including a double overtime nail-biter against Clemson. They finished 9-3, nearly making a come back against Wake Forest in what would decide the Atlantic.
Last Time Out
After keeping tight for the first half, NC State scored 23 in a second half shutout to win up at Alumni Stadium 33-7. An all-too-familiar third quarter beat down in particular was the undoing.
2022 Offense Outlook
The place to start is with potential first round pick Devin Leary. The senior quarterback is looking to cement his name alongside the litany of Wolfpack quarterbacks. While Phil Jurkovec had the buzz heading into 2021, it was Leary who broke out, throwing for 3,433 yards, and 35 touchdowns to five interceptions, entering the elite quarterback conversation. He has an incredibly strong arm that generated nearly 300 yards of offense per game. He is rightfully the leading vote getter for ACC Preseason Player of the Year.
In front of Leary is a veteran offensive line. Despite losing a top 10 Ikem Ekwonu, this unit still returns most of the talent that surrendered the second fewest sacks. Grant Gibson at center is the top center in the conference and they boast size and experience along the rest of the line. The biggest complaint with the offense is the lack of a running game. Now they lose their top two running backs as well, so new blood will be in the mix.
Leary loses his top receiver, but he does a good job distributing. Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter had over 500 yards apiece, and in comes Maryland transfer Darryl Jones to add to the group. Carter has good size and had six touchdowns last season.
After finishing third in the ACC and 14th in the country in scoring defense, they return seven starters, and a number of other key players who dealt with injuries last season.
Linebackers Drake Thomas and Payton Wilson were both named to the preseason ACC team and are the faces of the defense. Thomas was the team’s leading tackler (99), and Wilson missed all of last season but led the team in that category in 2019 and 2020. The linebacking corps will be the heartbeat of the defense. They generate most of the pass rush with Thomas having 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, and nine hurries. He also somehow led a team that had the second most interceptions in the conference, with four of his own.
Both defensive ends return and nose tackle CJ Clark comes back from a lost 2021. The secondary has experience talent all around. The lead playmaker is safety Tanner Ingle, who registered 82 tackles and had four pass deflections. This will once again be one of the best defenses in the conference.
NC State has the third best odds to win the ACC at +750 and their win total is set at 8.5. This year’s matchup comes on the heels of State in a clash against Wake. They’ll end with Louisville and UNC, both on the road, while the Eagles head to South Bend before returning home to meet Syracuse. The Wolfpack should be favored, let’s say by 7.5.