Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 40 of 55 OCT. 10, 2016 41 The Wolfpack defense allowed only 14.6 points per game in the seven wins against inferior oppo‑ sition, but permitted 39.0 in its six defeats, capped with a 51‑28 loss to Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl. This year, the schedule was in place for a 4‑0 start prior to the Notre Dame game, but a 33‑30 loss at East Carolina (5‑7 last year) Sept. 10, cre‑ ated an instant letdown. North Carolina State generally has been a middle‑of‑the‑road operation, ranking somewhere between 40 and 60. Since 2003, it has finished in the Associated Press top 25 only once — No. 25 in 2010 under O'Brien. Under Doeren, the recruiting has been upgraded some with Ri‑ vals class rankings at No. 30 (2014), No. 36 (2015) and No. 44 (2016). The Wolfpack has shown it can be jacked at home for marquee games. Two years ago it led defending na‑ tional champ Florida State, with Jameis Winston at QB, 24‑7 after one quarter, before losing 56‑41. Last year it was up 20‑19 on Clemson and trailed only 33‑27 in the second half before falling by the identical 56‑41 score. NC State hasn't shown an ability to finish these showdowns, but this still looms as a dangerous trip for the Fighting Irish. "The main thing people are look‑ ing for is the statement win," The‑ editor Matt Carter said of the Doeren era. "The general agreement is that he's upgraded the talent, and their recruiting has gotten better. For the most part — until East Carolina — they've done a good job the last two years of eliminating the bad losses. "But they haven't won the 50‑ 50 game or pulled that upset yet. They've come close. They've been very competitive with Louisville the last two years, and they've come close with Clemson and Florida State. But they haven't had that statement‑ defining, program‑defining win, and that's what fans are eager for at this moment." Even against a sub‑.500 Notre Dame team, such a victory might qualify. KEEP THEM UNDER 30 This is one of only three games in 2016 Notre Dame plays on the op‑ ponent's actual home field, with the outings at Texas and USC to begin and close the season the other two. Prior to the Syracuse game on a neutral field last week, the last three road trips — all losses — saw the Irish yield 38, 44 and 50 points. Last year, the Wolfpack had their third highest single‑season scoring aver‑ age (33.2 points per game), but still let offensive coordinator Matt Can‑ ada go. The new offensive coordi‑ nator/quarterbacks coach is Eliah Drinkwitz, who coached with Notre Dame's Mike Sanford at Boise State. The Broncos averaged 39.1 points and 501.3 yards of total offense last season. NC State has proven it can score at home when it faces a big name, including 41 last year against Clemson and 41 versus Florida State in 2014 (both losses). Keeping the Wolfpack to less than 30 points is a benchmark to aspire toward for the revamping Irish defense. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA STATE Dave Doeren was 23-4 at Northern Illinois, including a trip to the Orange Bowl, before taking the North Carolina State job. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN Predictions Corey Bodden: Notre Dame 37, North Carolina State 30 East Carolina is the only offense of substance NC State faced through four games, and the Pirates walked away with 445 total yards and a 33-30 win. Notre Dame has a better offense than ECU and should be able score enough points to win this one. Bryan Driskell: Notre Dame 31, North Carolina State 27 Carter-Finley Stadium is going to be raucous and inhospitable, but the Notre Dame offense should be able to make enough plays to overcome the team's defensive struggles. Matt Jones: North Carolina State 35, Notre Dame 31 The Wolfpack played well in big-time home matchups the past two years against Florida State and Clemson, and this will be no different. A hostile, sold-out crowd impacts the game late and NC State pulls out the victory. David McKinney: Notre Dame 43, North Carolina State 41 At this point with what has transpired, all of Notre Dame's games are toss-ups, with the exception of Stanford's visit Oct. 15, but I'll give the Irish a slight edge here. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 38, North Carolina State 34 The Fighting Irish should not have 0-2 listed for its all-time record against the Wolfpack in football, which would be the case with a loss. That's the main reason I will pick them on the road.

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