After a long offseason, it’s finally game week. Teams finally put their preparation and anticipation to the test on the field.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said last week that the squad’s objective remains the same.
“Those goals are never going to change. We want to be the best version of us that we can be,” Doeren said. “We want to win every game. We want to be conference champions, and that’s where every team starts the season.”
The external expectations, however, are much lower than they were last year. In fact, predictions about the Wolfpack’s final record are scattered, with some saying it will finish in the ACC’s overall top four and as low as nine.
Just about everyone has Florida State or Clemson finishing at the top of the standings, with North Carolina in third. Meanwhile, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech consistently listed toward the bottom. Everything in the middle — where State consistently lands — is a free-for-all.
Here’s where notable media members have the Pack finishing, in order from best record to worst.
Raymond Lucas Jr., 247 Sports: 9-3, 6-2 ACC
Morgan Moriarty, Bleacher Report: 8-4, 5-3 ACC
Brett Friedlander, Saturday Road: 8-4, 5-3 ACC
Joe Giglio, Saturday Road: 8-4, 4-4 ACC
Steve Lassan, Athlon Sports: 7-5
Chip Patterson, CBS Sports: 7-5
Stewart Mandel, The Athletic: 6-6, 3-5 ACC
The Wolfpack boasts a new offense under coordinator Robert Anae and quarterback Brennan Armstrong. The duo reunited in Raleigh after leading Virginia’s offense to some of its best numbers in program history. Now, everyone is waiting to see if they can replicate those numbers for N.C. State.
“Speed” was the primary descriptor used in the preseason for the Pack’s defense, which lost 11 letter winners including Isaiah Moore and Drake Thomas. The team believes in the players filling those roles, but no one ever truly knows how it’s going to play out.
247 Sports has the Pack losing three games this season, with those losses coming against Notre Dame, Clemson and Miami.
Freidlander of Saturday Road, however, predicted losses against Notre Dame, Duke, Miami and Wake Forest. In fact, he has State upsetting Clemson.
Giglio said in a podcast with Patterson that he has “major questions” about most of the Pack’s position groups and thinks the schedule is more difficult than most people might assume. Both discussed the expected improvements under Anae, though they’re concerned about some of the expectations being put on younger players.
That said, Patterson noted State’s home-field advantage. He said it’s one of the best in the league and could lead to some entertaining football games. For that reason, he and Giglio have the Clemson game as a tossup.
Mandel has N.C. State listed the lowest out of the others. He ranks Pittsburgh, Duke, Louisville, Miami and Wake Forest above the Wolfpack. That’s on top of a 12-0 Clemson team and an expected 11-2 Florida State.
Louisville is listed as a possible sleeper after nearly winning 10 games last season, while Miami is his “complete wild card.”
N.C. State begins its season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday when it travels to UConn for its season opener.