With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year.As we inch closer to the action kicking off on Aug. 29, I'll release a schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the N.C. State Wolfpack:
Aug. 31 — Louisiana Tech
Sept. 7 — Richmond
Sept. 14 — Open
Sept. 19 — Clemson
Sept. 28 — Central Michigan
Oct. 5 — at Wake Forest
Oct. 12 — Syracuse
Oct. 19 — Open
Oct. 26 — at Florida State
Nov. 2 — North Carolina
Nov. 9 — at Duke
Nov. 16 — at Boston College
Nov. 23 — East Carolina
Nov. 30 — Maryland
Schedule obtained from the official website of N.C. State athletics.
For the first time since 2009, N.C. State will play host in each of its four non-conference games. While that alone makes this sound like a desirable slate, the fact that the Wolfpack have to leave the state of North Carolina only twice makes this potentially the most favorable schedule of any ACC team.
The Pack open their season with four straight games in Carter-Finley Stadium, and that's just an additional benefit for a team facing most of its concerns on offense. North Carolina and Duke represent the crossover opponents from the Coastal Division, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that N.C. State could win both of those.
Still, Dave Doeren has a lot of work to do in getting this team ready in his first year as head coach of the Wolfpack. There may be tremendous opportunity lying ahead, but with the current state of the program, success won't be a given.
Before Aug. 31 even rolls around, N.C. State picks up a major victory in preseason practice with the emergence of an undisputed starter at quarterback.
It could be Pete Thomas, who came out of spring practice as the top man, or it may be Brandon Mitchell, an Arkansas transfer whose skill set most closely resembles that of Doeren's quarterbacks at Northern Illinois. Either way, if the coaching staff can find the answer to this question before the season starts, it will solve a lot of problems.
With the right man under center, the Pack take advantage of a home-field advantage that has driven them to a 16-3 record in Raleigh over the last three seasons.
The early stretch of home games gives the offense time to get in sync, and Dontae Johnson joins Juston Burris in reloading a secondary that lost two players to the NFL draft.
As the most surprising team in the conference, N.C. State finishes 7-1 in Carter-Finley and notches the 10-win mark for the second time in school history after defeating Wake Forest, Duke and Boston College on the road. The Wolfpack fall short of winning the Atlantic but celebrate an otherwise fantastic year.
Two words will ultimately sum up 2013 for Doeren and this group: quarterback controversy. Former coach Tom O'Brien began his six-year run at N.C. State with a home loss to a Conference USA squad, and Doeren does the same when his team fails to score enough points to down Louisiana Tech.
The Pack miss Mike Glennon, but the glaring lack of playmakers also factors into the misery on offense. A Thursday night blowout loss to Clemson kills team morale, and the Wolfpack continue their struggles at Wake Forest, where they haven't won since 2001, and in Chestnut Hill, where they still haven't picked up a conference win since the Eagles joined the ACC.
The low point of the season comes in a loss to rival North Carolina, and N.C. State looks back wondering what could have been after ending the year with only four wins.
This team is not a contender for the division. It's probably not even good for double-digit wins. That being said, it's not at all unreasonable to expect a bowl berth in Doeren's inaugural year in Raleigh.
Even if the situation at QB isn't ideal, there are two major reasons why the Pack should finish 2013 with at least a .500 record: There are several winnable games on this schedule, and much of O'Brien's solid 2010 recruiting class still remains.
Those are crucial elements in determining a team's chances on the gridiron, and this year, they make it likely that N.C. State will be bowl-bound in December.
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