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Not Gone, But Certainly Forgotten

My participation in mgoblog's BlogPoll has me thinking about football. So here's a break from baseball mode.

From 2000-2003, NC State won 34 football games. Four bowl games (3-1). Plenty of rankings, hype, and exposure.

In 2004, State went 5-6, thanks to generally anemic quarterback play (and a whole bloody heap o' turnovers). It's awfully quiet these days. Not that I necessarily blame anyone for falling asleep on NC State.

Last year, watching these guys play was constantly nerve-racking, frustrating, and utterly painful. And I kept going back to the stadium every Saturday. Man, I'm a sucker.

While the usual suspects get their standard allotment of attention this off-season, some other ACC schools--Georgia Tech, Boston College--are also getting cuddly with sportswriters. That doesn't leave a lot of room for the Pack, but here are a few reasons why you can expect them to be bowl bound in 2005:

1) Led by one of the best defenses in the country, NC State out-gained 10 of 11 opponents in 2004. They lost two last-minute heart-breakers, and blew leads in a pair of other games. The defense will have to replace its entire secondary, but all four defensive line starters--including preseason All-American DE Mario Williams--return. The unit may not be brilliant in '05, but it will be very, very good.

2) Quarterback Jay Davis was awful in 2004, but it wasn't for a lack of skill position players. The Wolfpack returns a talented stable of running backs, a good pass-catching tight end in TJ Williams, and receivers who--on the rare occasions where the ball is delivered to them accurately--can break a game open. I said it before last season and I'll say it again now: for this team to be successful, Jay Davis needs merely to be adequate.

3) Fumble-itis going into remission. Thirty-two turnovers, 15 takeaways last year. Such a negative turnover margin is absurd, and you won't see it again.

4) Virginia Tech went 7-1 in the ACC en route to the conference title last year. That loss? To the Wolfpack in Blacksburg. There is talent in Raleigh, and I like to at least entertain the idea that, this year, Jay Davis won't hold them back.