The Wolfpacker

July 2016

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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98 ■ THE WOLFPACKER FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2016 BY RYAN TICE Three Key Games At EAST CAROLINA, Sept. 10 The old adage is that it's not about how you start but how you finish, but that is not necessarily the case for NC State in 2016. This game is huge for both the Wolfpack's bowl hopes and perception purposes. At the very least, Dave Doeren's program can show it's heading in the right direction in week two — it's never too early for a statement game when playing an in-state foe. Despite missing a bowl last year and changing approaches on both sides of the ball, ECU has intriguing pieces — Minnesota/Rutgers transfer quarterback Philip Nelson is expected to take the offensive lead, wideout Isaiah Jones has hauled in at least 60 passes each of the last three years and had a 98-catch campaign last year, running back James Summers (a one-time NCSU commit) is the top returning passer (683 yards and five touchdowns) and rusher (446 yards and eight scores), and Tennessee transfer running back Derrell Scott was a four-star recruit the Pack loved. Defensively, ECU boasts an experienced front seven that will test the Wolfpack's unproven blockers and arguably the top cornerback combo in the American Athletic Conference. This one alone might be more of a test than last year's four non-conference contests combined. Vs. MIAMI, Nov. 19 Fans might be more fired up about the Notre Dame game Oct. 8, but the Irish are in the midst of a run that puts them closer to Clemson and Florida State's levels. If the Pack can surprise one of those three powerhouses, that's a heck of a win for Doeren to hang his hat on. However, Louisville (on the road Oct. 22) and Miami are more in NC State's weight class — and a victory against either would still provide Doeren with his biggest win yet in Raleigh. Miami boasts a future NFL quarterback in Brad Kaaya, but is still a program with a new head coach and several question marks. The opportunity for a victory is there — and it would give NCSU its first win over a Coastal opponent besides UNC since 2011 (Virginia). Since the ACC began its current scheduling format in 2013, the Pack is 1-5 versus Coastal foes. Since sweeping its three crossover games in 2008, NCSU is 6-12 in such contests and just 2-9 if you don't include permanent partner UNC. At NORTH CAROLINA, Nov. 25 Heading into the 2016 season, the Pack has yet to beat a Power Five team that finished with a winning record since 2012. If that hasn't changed by the time these in-state rivals meet, the importance of the game is magnified even more. UNC is bound to take a step back from last year's 11-3 season that saw them reach the ACC Championship Game, but it's likely they will still be in Coastal Division contention. There would be no better way to end the regular season than a Wolfpack win in Chapel Hill, especially if it spoils another trip to Charlotte for the Tar Heels. NCSU has now lost three of its last four against their biggest rival and allowing 35 points in the first quarter at home last year was unacceptable. The hope is the 2016 tilt looks more like the final three frames, when the Red and White outscored the baby blue 27-10, or even the 35-7 victory for the visitors the last time they met in Chapel Hill. Quick Look At NC State's 2016 Schedule Returning Athlon Sports' Phil Steele's Date Team 2015 Record Starters* National Rank Power Poll — NC State 7-6 (3-5 ACC) 16 59 47 Sept. 1 William & Mary 9-4 (6-2 CAA) 16 13 (FCS) — The Tribe made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs last year behind running back Kendell Anderson, now a senior, rushing for 1,418 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sept. 10 at East Carolina 5-7 (3-5 AAC) 13 94 99 ECU missed the postseason for just the second time in the last 10 years in 2015, leading to the ouster of popular alum and head coach Ruffin McNeill. Former Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery takes over in his first head gig. Sept. 17 Old Dominion 5-7 (3-5 C-USA) 17 104 106 NC State and ODU have played each of the last two years, with the Pack winning both by a combined score of 84‑48, but the Monarchs return a 1,000‑yard rusher, a near 1,000‑yard receiver, both QBs who saw action last year, Conference USA's top tackler from 2015 and three starters on the defensive line and in the secondary. Oct. 1 Wake Forest 3-9 (1-7 ACC) 16 64 81 The Deacs are coming off consecutive 3‑9 campaigns, but there could be light at the end of the tunnel. An easy schedule sets Wake up for a possible bowl, which would be a first since 2011, if the young team grows up. Oct. 8 Notre Dame 10-3 10 8 12 The Fighting Irish return only 10 starters, but they are talented enough to have their sights on the College Football Playoff after a pair of two‑point losses (at Clemson and at Stanford) ruined last year's regular season. NCSU beat Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl that capped the 2002 campaign in their only previous meeting — just 16 programs currently hold a winning record over ND. Oct. 15 at Clemson 14-1 (8-0 ACC) 14 4 5 Clemson's offense should continue producing at an impressive clip with Heisman candidate (favorite?) Deshaun Watson under center, but the defense will have to reload. If they can finish among the nation's top 25 in total defense for a fourth straight year, another College Football Playoff appearance is likely. Oct. 22 at Louisville 8-5 (5-3 ACC) 18 18 23 The Cardinals won six of their final seven games in 2015 and should pick up where they left off. Last year's top three passers, six leading rushers and all 16 players who notched a reception are back. They're similarly loaded on defense and are tied for first nationally with 18 returning starters on offense and defense. Oct. 29 Boston College 3-9 (0-8 ACC) 15 65 51 Boston College's string of 7‑6 campaigns was disrupted last year, but that was no fault of the defense. BC ranked among the top six nationally in all four major categories, but must replace coordinator Don Brown. They lost five games by three points or less but changing that rests on the offense, which was as bad as the defense was good last year. Nov. 5 Florida State 10-3 (6-2 ACC) 17 2 2 Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Tallahassee, but the Seminoles still won 10 games. Running back Dalvin Cook is a legitimate Heisman contender and FSU leaves the Sunshine State just three times this fall. However, perhaps no venue haunts them as much as Carter‑Finley Stadium, where the dominant program is just 4‑5 since 1998. The only away venue they have lost at more during that span is Clemson (six). Nov. 12 at Syracuse 4-8 (2-6 ACC) 17 75 93 The Pack is 4‑0 at the Carrier Dome and should be favored once again against first‑year coach Dino Babers, who is changing systems on both sides of the ball. Sophomore Eric Dungey could become a dangerous dual‑threat quarterback, but he doesn't have much help right now. Nov. 19 Miami 8-5 (5-3 ACC) 17 27 18 Pro scouts will be watching QB Brad Kaaya as closely as Clemson's Watson this fall. Two of his top three receiv ‑ ers must be replaced, but 1,000‑yard rusher Joe Yearby will keep defenses honest. New head coach Mark Richt is proven on the college level and should have comparable talent to Georgia, where he went 145‑51 in 15 years. Nov. 25 at UNC 11-3 (8-0 ACC) 15 22 26 Carolina has routinely been a popular preseason darkhorse for seemingly the last decade and finally broke through with 11 wins in 2015. Several key pieces must be replaced, especially from a high‑powered offense, but QB Mitch Trubisky has some experience, Elijah Hood ran for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, and three receivers who had at least 488 receiving yards all return. * Maximum of two specialists Quick Guide The Names, Games And Numbers To Know Heading Into The 2016 Campaign The Wolfpack will try to avenge last year's 45-34 defeat versus the Tar Heels when the two rivals square off in Chapel Hill Nov. 25. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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