North Carolina State has a chance to really make a mark on the ACC this season. They could feasibly win their division and punch a ticket to the ACC Championship game in December.
Last year they finally figured out how to win games at the end of the season and Russell Wilson came on very strong, becoming the first freshman quarterback to ever make first team All-ACC. He returns, along with the return of players such as top receiver Owen Spencer and star defensive end Willie Young.
I will break down their schedule from their most winnable games to their least winnable games from 11-1. I will predict the results of each game as well.
Chalk up two wins for the Wolfpack in their second and third games of the season. These two teams both finished with losing records in NCAA Division 1 FCS (or to the normal folk, Division 1-AA).
After scheduling only one division 1-AA opponent last season, NC State decided to soften the slate just a tad this season to get some momentum building up into tougher games.
There is zero chance these teams will pull an Appalachian State on a hungry NC State team coming off of a home opener against South Carolina.
PREDICTION: vs. Gardner Webb, NC State 41-10
vs. Murray State, NC State 37-12
Duke is no longer the pushover opponent they once were. They only won once in conference play last season, but Cutcliffe has them on the right track and Thaddeus Lewis is one of the most electrifying players in the ACC.
Getting the Blue Devils at home will be good for the Wolfpack considering Duke has not won an ACC road game since November 22, 2003. I can't see Duke pulling an upset here.
PREDICTION: NC State 31-16
Maryland returns star running back Da'Rel Scott, who will be one of the best in the ACC. Chris Turner also returns at QB, so they have some experience at key skill positions. Their defense will be very tough as expected from the Terps annually.
This game has the makings of a Wolfpack blowout to me for some reason. Scott could spell trouble for them, but Wilson and Co. will put up points to counter. Should be a win for the Pack at Carter-Finley.
PREDICTION: NC State 24-14
North Carolina returns starting QB, T.J. Yates, but lost his favorite target in Hakeem Nicks. The defense is bolstered by defensive tackle Marvin Austin. They are on their way to another promising season.
Since O'Brien has arrived in Raleigh, the Wolfpack have had the Tar Heels' number. The Wolfpack have won the past two contest by a combined score of 72-37. I think NC State has improved more than UNC, so NC State can expect a win here, after winning in Chapel Hill last year 41-10.
PREDICTION: NC State 34-20
South Carolina will definitely not compete for the SEC crown this year. Eric Norwood is the only true impact player on the roster. Some young guys need to step of for South Carolina this year.
This is a revenge game for the Wolfpack, They were totally destroyed by the Gamecocks last year and this is their opportunity for payback. They will also want to start the season on a high note and this is a great opportunity to get out of the gates fast.
Pittsburgh is favored to win the Big East by many this season. They lost McCoy, who WAS their offense last year. They have a very good defense which will cause them to be a good team though.
It's going to be tough for the Panthers to come into Raleigh and walk away with a victory. It should be a good, hard fought contest, but Pitt just doesn't have the offensive power to hang with the Pack.
PREDICTION: NC STATE 20-13
I'm not totally buying this Florida State hype this season. They don't return a superstar player and I would be surprised if they had a better record than last year. It's probably time Bobby Bowden just hangs up the clipboard.
NC State typically plays FSU strong and they are usually not fazed by playing at Doak Campbell. This will be a challenging game, but I might be smelling an upset here.
PREDICTION: NC State 20-17
The Eagles are one of the most consistent programs since joining the ACC. They have a promising new QB on campus in Dave Shinskie, who was a former minor league baseball player. Montel Harris was a solid running back last year as a freshman and should be a 1,000 yard back this year. Their defense will be stingy like usual.
This game will be circled on NC State's and Boston College's calenders. It is Tom O'Brien's second game against his former school in Chestnut Hill. It will be an emotional game and the outcome will be decided by a very thin margin.
PREDICTION: Boston College 24-20
Clemson has two of the best skill position players in the ACC in C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. They will have plenty of offensive power and should have no problem putting up points.
The Tigers always present problems for NC State. They can never figure them out and this year will probably be the same. The Pack had trouble stopping the run last year and the Tigers might run right over them.
PREDICTION: Clemson 30-24
Wake Forest has a promising season ahead of them in all likelihood. They have four-year starter Riley Skinner back for one more season, and he's one of the best in the ACC. If their defense steps up a bit, they are serious contenders for an Atlantic title.
NC State always struggles with Wake Forest. They never blow them out and are very evenly matched with them this year. Look for a very good game.
PREDICTION: Wake Forest 23-17
Virginia Tech has positioned themselves as the ACC favorite and it's hard to argue with that. Even with the injury to star running back Darren Evans, they are the defending ACC champions and return many good players.
This will be a very tough game to win for NC State, going into Blacksburg against a more talented,experienced team. At Carter-Finley this game would be closer, but at Lane, this is a romp.
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 28-13