This article will take a look at each of the 12 games of the upcoming NC State Football schedule for the 2009-2010 season and point out keys to success. Please remember that injuries occur (Wolfpack fans know all too well) and there are countless X-factors in college football, especially in the Atlantic Coast Conference. So let's get started!
After last year's lackluster performance in Columbia, the Wolfpack intend to make a statement of their intentions right off the bat with all of the nation watching on ESPN. Russel Wilson went down with a grade 3 concussion early and that is when it got bad for the Pack. Luckily, the Gamecocks are not returning much on the offensive side of the ball. I would guess that Garcia (122 career passing attempts and 6 touchdowns) will be the starter. He will be joined in the backfield with some inexperience. They return backs that only accounted for 41% of their rush attack from 2008. Receiving from Garcia will be a similar story, only bringing back players responsible for 47% of the 2008 receiving yards. Defensively, CB Gilmore will be someone not to throw the ball towards and the D-line is expected to be pretty decent.
What NCSU must DO:
1. Protect Russell Wilson - no concussion means no problems for the offense.
2. Get after the QB on Defense - with all the talk about Nate Irving, Willie Young, and Alan-Michael Cash, opening night is the best time to get your name in the conversation nationally
3. Establish the run - WELCOME BACK TONEY BAKER! - give TB the ball and let him hit someone, he has been salivating thinking about it for the past 2 seasons. Don't forget about Jamelle Eugene, great chance to get in the open field and make someone miss.
4. Don;t stop until the final whistle - I am quite confident that the Wolfpack won't easily forget that Spurrier was throwing the ball deep at the end of the game last year when the game was basically over...you know what they say about Karma...
Prediction: NC State - 41 South Carolina - 17
At 6:00, Murray State of the Football Championship Subdivision will enter Carter-Finley Stadium. The Racers finished 4-4 in their league and 5-7 overall. They return QB Ehrhardt who has some talent but will not have sufficient time to show it off.
Not to discount this team at all, but they will be easily outmatched at every position on the field and the size, strength, and speed of NC State will be very apparent.
This game should give NC State fans a chance to see highly touted yet unproven QB Mike Glennon for a large portion of the game, probably the entire second half.
Prediction: NC State - 45 Murray State - 3
Not to be overlooked too much, this Gardner-Webb team only lost to Georgia Tech last year by a score of 10-7. I do expect this one to be a bit less of a nail-biter but not a blowout. In the end, the Runnin' Bulldogs will be outmatched and both Glennon and Wilson will play for the Pack and our defense will end the game with some pretty good stats.
Prediction: NC State - 35 Gardner-Webb - 13
This game will be a real test for the Wolfpack and will really show everyone a little bit of who they are. If things go as I predict, the Wolfpack will be 3-0 and probably ranked about #20 and coming off of a couple of "easy" wins. Pitt will be close to the same ranking, making this a big matchup.
As NC State fans, we should all send LeSean McCoy a thank you note for going to the NFL. That guy was not a major part of the offense....many times he WAS the offense. His leaving for the NFL left the Pitt offense hurting a little. They have a QB in Stull who can play brilliantly, but without a running game to back it up, it could be a downfall as well. Defensively, however, the Panthers are considered by many to be the best in the Big East. Their D-line is stacked and their linebackers are very talented, as would be expected on a Dave Wannstedt team. The overall talent of the team is very high and not to be overlooked at all.
What NCSU must DO:
1. Protect Wilson - This game will show how the offensive line has developed (hopefully) and will be put to the test against the Panthers and their anticipated tough defense.
2. Stop big passes - Without McCoy in the backfield, Pitt will be passing early and often and more times than not it will be in the direction of Jonathan Baldwin. This will be a big test on our CB's and Safeties. Shut him down and so goes the offense.
3. Special teams plays - I anticipate a tough, close game where it may come down to who makes the bigger special teams play...here's looking at you TJ Graham and Josh Czajkowski.
4. The 12th Man - Carter-Finley will need to get loud and in my opinion will be the deciding factor.
Prediction: NC State - 34 Pittsburgh - 27