Since there ain't much doin' these days, I guess now is as good a time as any to look at the football schedule and guess at every game based on little substantive information. With the exception of the Liberty game, these picks are straight out the gut, a land of truthiness that more often than not has beer along as a companion guide. Once there is actual football being played, the outlook will adjust accordingly.
Week 1: vs. Liberty. I had a dream about this game not too long ago: we will win 47-20. I have seen it and so it must be. Liberty's offense will struggle against NC State's first-team defense because the Flames are breaking in four new offensive linemen, and while they have some good skill players, they tend to be negated by ineffectiveness in the trenches.
The Flames will finally get a couple of touchdowns in garbage time against a reserve-heavy Wolfpack defense. But by this point most of us will be back in pre-game form, and by that I mean we'll be walking around the parking lots in a daze, grinning stupidly at each other as we trade obvious remarks like "can't believe football is back!" and "football!" and "yeah!"
Week 2: at Wake Forest. If you caught the end of R&R podcast #11, you heard me pronounce the Jim Grobe era of mystical effectiveness over. No more of this 36-takeaway-getting, multiple long-field-goal-making insanity. After watching the game against the Deacs last year, I can't picture this game being anything other than easy. Of course, I'd have said the same thing prior to the meeting in 2003.
Week 3: vs. South Alabama. South Alabama. Sounds depressing, doesn't it? Almost as bad as Middle Tennessee. Just can't be pleasant. While the Jaguars will receive a lift from existing--however briefly--somewhere other than the bowels of Alabama, it won't make much difference. Ramp up the Glennon for Heisman talk, boys, he just threw six touchdown passes. Also this is the game during which Taylor Gentry will get his carry.
Week 4: at Cincinnati. As Butch Jones is always tweeting, you gotta "represent the C." I don't have anything to add to that, he just says it so damn much that I'm always thinking about it. Football coaches sure do love slogans. "Finish;" "It's Our Time;" "Getting After It;" "Mostly Harmless;" "All In;" "You Are Pleased With The Coach's Performance;" "Look Over Here At These Fireworks;" etc.
I wouldn't lean too much on State's easy win in Raleigh last year as you project this one in your head. They've got good talent on offense returning, including Zach Collaros, and they've had time to address the offensive line situation. At least I hope they have, for their sake. For Mike Glennon, going from the first three weeks to a road game against a bowl-caliber opponent is like skipping a few grades. I'll give Cincy the slight edge at home.
Week 5: vs. Georgia Tech. The Jim Grobe mystique took a significant hit last season, but I'm not sure there is anything that could happen to Paul Johnson's Georgia Tech teams that would ease the terror felt at the thought of that triple option offense. Last year's game went so well overall it was like a dream. I don't see that happening again. We had the experience at quarterback to take advantage of their shortcomings defensively--and they had many--and now we're back in unknown territory as far as that goes. Another loss.
Week 6: vs. Central Michigan. Ah, "Bowl Day." Honoring past NC State bowl teams while simultaneously firing a shot across the bow of a Central Michigan team that went 3-9 last season. I was kind of hoping there would be a physical bowl giveaway to fans, though.
4-2 (1-1) at the midway point.
Week 8: at Virginia. Mike London seems to have some momentum on the recruiting trail, which is good given the amount of work that lies ahead for him. Their defense gave up 6.5 yards per snap against league foes in 2010 and they've got to establish a new quarterback. I don't think they have enough to win this game.
Week 9: at Florida State. The way Jimbo and his staff are going, the window in the Atlantic Division isn't going to be open much longer. Maybe the Coaches Poll voters were premature in assigning FSU a top-10 ranking this year, but you can bet that it won't be long before they look and play that part. They'll be scorching the earth mid-90s style, and once we reach that point, well, who knows when we'll have another decent shot at this thing.
Given the circumstances, this could set up to be the next Most Important Game Of Tom O'Brien's Career. Lose and forget about it, and maybe for a good while, too. Win and NC State will be in a position to take care of the division with home games against Clemson and Maryland to finish out the year. The Seminoles will win, but it's sure to look a hell of a lot different than the last time these two teams played in Tallahassee.
Week 10: vs. UNC. Some folks have been quick to note that the law of NC State shit dictates that UNC will win this game with Butch Davis out and the program in chaos. There's also the issue with Carolina's talent, which is that they still have a lot of it. We've had so much good fortune against Carolina--the last two years especially--that it's starting to scare me. Probability demands a reversal at some point, and if we're outplayed the way we were in 2009 and 2010, that'll come sooner rather than later. Now I'm just stalling because I have no idea what is going to happen in this or any of the last three games. Fuck it, we'll find some bizarre way to win again.
Week 11: at Boston College. Ever since Matt Ryan graduated, the Eagles have been insistent on taking the most unwatchable route to bowl eligibility possible. They had the league's best defense a year ago, and though the search for a suitable heir to Ryan's throne goes on, they'll find 6-7 wins in there somewhere. I get the feeling this game will give them one of those wins. It's premium quality defenses like this one that are really going to make Glennon look like a first-year quarterback.
Week 12: vs. Clemson. Last year's loss down there still smarts a bit. Such a pathetically poorly executed affair on both sides, capped with the idiocy that was the decision which resulted in a four yard punt. Why does there always have to be a game where we lay an egg? It's damned inevitable no matter how good we are; we'll play down to someone, guaranteed. Even Sloppy Joe Sweatshirt over yonder on the Clemson sideline. Stupid variance. We can't play any worse this time around, though I think the result will be the same.
Week 13: vs. Maryland. I love Danny O'Brien, I just don't know about the rest of the team. O'Brien is Maryland's trump card in a division that features a lot of turnover at quarterback, but their defense is due for a slide, Torrey Smith and Da'Rel Scott are gone, and there is the whole coaching change thing. We will prevail even though just 39.6% of season ticket holders have failed to lose their howl towels at this point.
7-5 (4-4). This ought to provide some comedy after the season.