NC State is losing enough on both sides of the ball to warrant tempered expectations in 2019, even with a schedule as friendly as the one before us. It’s hard to believe the team will be bad, but there are so many question marks that it’s equally hard to believe that there won’t be at least some regression.
2019’s group certainly won’t have the potential of the 2018 team, but it faces a similar schedule situation that really does leave the door open for another strong record. Just like last year, the ACC is a logjam of okay to decent football teams, all pretending to chase Clemson who has lapped everyone so many times we’ve lost count.
This means there will be a lot of games that could go either way. The difference between a good season and a great season could again be just a few plays. Let’s look at the schedule.
Game 1: ECU
Game 2: Western Carolina
If NC State doesn’t start the season 2-0, just cancel the season
Game 3: @ West Virginia
This is the most interesting game on the schedule in my opinion. State has traditionally fallen flat in the early season tests against good teams and avoiding that here could go a long way for both the perceived and actual success of this season. The Pack will likely be an underdog here, but winning this one in a tough environment would be a pretty solid early-season statement, and it’s winnable too. West Virginia lost a ton of great players, its defensive coordinator (guess where he went) and its head coach (although it may have upgraded there). Of course, State is in the same situation minus the coaches. West Virginia is probably going to be the safer pick, but this is definitely one of those games that could go either way.
Game 4: Ball State
Probably should try not to lose this one either
Game 5: @ Florida State
Game 6: Syracuse
Game 7: @ Boston College
Game 8: @ Wake Forest
This four-game stretch is likely what will determine the season. Every one of these games at least resembles a toss-up, with maybe Florida State leaning towards a loss if it gets its crap together on the offensive line. Syracuse is still a better team and a major matchup problem, but the fact that it’s a Thursday night home game changes the situation a little.
I really don’t know what will happen here. There are a lot of wild cards. It feels reasonable to expect two wins in four toss-up type games because of math, but three being on the road and the lone home game coming against a likely elite passing team is not ideal. If State comes into this at 3-1 and could manage to get two here, it would have a good shot at getting to 8-4 and having another chance at 9 wins in a bowl. That would be incredible given the roster turnover.
Game 9: Clemson
Game 10: Louisville
Game 11: @ Georgia Tech
Game 12: Crap Factory
The weak finish to the 2018 schedule gave State a chance to close the season strong and earn a final record that was better than a lot of people would have thought possible at the start of the season. Instead, it messed around and lost to Wake Forest. Barring an ugly stretch in the middle of the season, the Pack will have a chance at a strong finish again, and just like last year, its final three opponents aren’t exactly world-beaters.
Georgia Tech will likely be very bad. UNC will almost certainly improve at least a little and Louisville will as well because it kind of has to by default. Still, any loss in these last three games is a bad loss. You can call me crazy, but I think it’s perfectly realistic to say that State can win its final three games.
Winning at least eight regular-season games in three straight seasons would be impossible to deny as significant progress (although some people would certainly still try). That’s very much on the table too. How well the offensive line holds up, how reliable quarterback play is, and how effectively the coaches can manage end-of-game situations will likely be the three most critical things to consider when setting your expectations for this team. If you believe in those things even a little, another season of at least an 8-4 record is there for the taking.
If State can avoid losing to any of the six teams it should have no trouble being better than, it would take two wins out of the remaining five winnable games to reach 8. That certainly seems like a realistic result to expect, thus I have landed on 8-4 as the realistic expectation for this team. What do you think?
What is a fair expectation for NC State?
This poll is closed
Worse than 8-4
8-4 sounds right
Better than 8-4
I just want to click something