As we continue our march towards the beginning of the college football season, here's a look at our upcoming opponents. Today we look at the Eagles second ACC opponent, the N.C. State Wolfpack
The N.C. St. 2013 Season In Review
It was a pretty down year for Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack as the first year Pack head coach struggled to get his team moving in the right direction. A lot of this can't be put on Doeren as the team was left with very little talent after the departure of Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack lost all eight of their ACC games including a stomping by the Eagles at the Heights on senior day led by a 332 yard performance on the ground by Andre Williams. The pack finished the season 3-9 with their lone wins being against Richmond, Louisiana Tech and Central Michigan. Clearly the Pack are going to need to improve on last season's performance if they want to become bowl eligible again in 2014.
The Wolfpack Offense
Like Boston College, N.C. State has found their starting quarterback by picking up a transfer from the University of Florida. Jacoby Brissett, a junior transferred to the Pack before last season and spent most of the year with the scout squad. Brissett was above Tyler Murphy on the Florida depth chart and according to Paul Myerberg was clearly the most talented quarterback on the N.C State roster last season. He is exactly the type of quarterback that works well in a Dave Doeren system. He is mobile, and can take off when he is pressured, and has a great arm. He is going to be an immediate upgrade over Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell, the two QB's that Doeren threw out there last year on the way to finishing 57th in the country in passing offense.
The bigger concern for the Wolfpack is going to be the play they get out of their wide receivers. If Doeren wants to throw the ball, he's going to need to have talented wide outs and right now there isn't a lot of established depth on the roster. Both of the Packs leading receivers Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton graduated, leaving Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jumichael Ramos and RS senior Bryan Underwood. Undewrood a senior WR is someone to keep an eye out for as he will be the guy who will be stretching the field. NC State also has a pair of freshmen wide outs coming in, watch out for Bo Hines a speedy 6'1 wide out who enrolled early.
Another position of weakness for the Wolfpack will be their offensive line. Last season the Pack finished 105th in the country allowing 35 sacks, and it appears that this trend could continue this year. Reading some of the other previews out there it looks like Doeren doesn't have a set group of starters to go into the season and will be trying out lots of young guys and established veterans up front. Moving forward that is a great idea for getting some of the younger kids some playing time, but also hinders the cohesion you might see from a team like BC or FSU that have let their front line gel. Look for guys Rob Crisp, Joe Thuney, and Tyson Chandler to return as starters.
Doeren's rushing offense was very middle of the road last season, as they finished 71st in rushing yards per game. Last year's every down back Shaddrach Thornton will be returning for his junior season, after finishing last season with over 700 yards. Also look for sophomore Matt Dawes, who contributed last season with 252 yards. But again, the addition of Brissett will be a major addition to the running game.
The Wolfpack Defense
There are big changes in scheme this year for the Wolfpack as they change to the 4-2-5 system, which should help mitigate the losses of starting linebackers Robert Caldwell and D.J. Green. This new system puts a strong emphasis on secondary play, and with the Wolfpack losing 14 of their 29 contributors from last season, this new system is going to be a huge question mark going into the 2014 season.
Last season the Wolfpack had almost no pass rush that finished last season with 20 sacks. Returning will be Art Norman, a defensive lineman who finished the season leading the pack with 4.5 sacks. The team also tried to address this in recruiting this year by bringing in 4* defensive ends Kentavius Street and Justin Jones. Either or both of these players could immediately jump in and might help bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Also look for Mike Rose, a rising junior to jump in and get starting reps as well. The bigger concern for the Pack is the lack of talent on the interior line, a group that got destroyed by good offensive lines last year and something Doeren did nothing to address this offseason.
The linebacking group as mentioned above is a group in flux as well. Look for M.J. Salahuddin (25 tackles) and seniors Brandon Pittman (62 tackles) and Rodman Noel to grab immediate playing time. But also keep an eye out for 4* true freshman Germaine Pratt, a fast and quick linebacker that may rise up the two deep quickly.
The secondary needs to be the keystone for this 4-2-5 defense and the talent is there, but they still may be a year or two away from being the type that wins game for the Wolfpack. Jarvis Byrd is the star of the secondary, and if he can stay healthy after missing time with a knee injury he will add much needed stability to the backhalf of the secondary. Jack Tocho and Niles Clark will be the two key cornerbacks for the Pack.
Where BC Should Be Successful
Challenge them up front. Like many of the predictions I am going to make this year, I think BC is going to need to win and lose up front in the trenches. NC State was brutal up the middle, something we saw when Andre Williams torched them, and this trend looks to continue in 2014. Exploit that. Allow BC to control the tempo, wear down an inferior defensive line and keep Brissett on the sideline.
Where BC May Struggle
Last year I got too many queasy stomachs watching BC play on the road. They looked awful in many of their games they played outside the friendly confines of Alumni Stadium, and that trend can not continue this year. While I think on paper BC should have the edge in many of the key matchups, I worry that all those stats will all go to hell when they go on the road. If Jacoby Brissett is allowed to roam around untouched and get some momentum, BC could wilt.
Wayyyyyyy Too Early Prediction
BC 38 NC State 30. Reading up on the Pack I don't get why they would be picked ahead of BC or Syracuse. They are a team that is probably one year away from being good, and believe me I think that is going to happen. But this year will not be the case, there are too many holes on this team especially in key areas that BC can exploit. I expect a lot of running from the BC offense and control of the game clock, mixed in with a few big plays. It'll be close but I expect the Eagles to sneak by with this one.