When I first wrote about his record against ranked opponents two years ago, Dave Doeren was presented with a culture defining victory leading into the 2018 matchup with Clemson. Obviously that game didn’t go the Pack’s way. It was quite disappointing considering the talent on that year’s team.
It’s unfortunate to make it so far into Doeren’s tenure to not be able to point to multiple BIG (not B1G) moments. We’ll all remember that game against the human cheat code, but it’d be nice to have more of those to point to by now. Everything else he’s doing with building culture “the right way” has been promising, and easy to root for as a fan. If he’s coaching next season, Dave Doeren in year nine would become the second most tenured football coach in NC State history. We want this guy to succeed, he says and does all the right things. Unfortunately we can’t overlook the fact that his record against ranked teams looks like this:
Against all odds, football is happening in 2020. Not only that, the ACC took all the schedules and threw them into a hat (maybe a stylish bowler). This is presenting NC State with count ‘em four (4) non-Clemson top 25 ranked teams on the schedule. As of the time of this writing (Week 4 poll), obviously.
Great teams beat other great teams. It’s tough to do that when you have a national championship contender on your schedule every year, and that’s it. NC State has not played an AP top 25 team in the regular season since facing FSU, Louisville and Notre Dame in 2017. A schedule like the one we see this year really ought to be the new standard. Divisions are dumb, and whoever thought of them should be put in timeout. But it’s highly unlikely the stodgy traditionalists will want to shake things up permanently, and I’d guess we’ll see a return to the norm next year.
That’s why this 2020 season is a perfect storm of opportunities for NC State. They are healthy across the board (not a jinx). For the time being, they seem to have an offensive coordinator who is going to help light up the scoreboard. The infusion of young talent on defense seems to have given them a newfound vigor (see: suplex). And to top it off, the four teams on the schedule currently ranked in the top 25 are all showing signs of weakness, some viral and some talent-based. They all could match up well if the Wolfpack play to their potential.
First up for a quality win will be when they (hopefully) travel to Blacksburg to face #20 Virginia Tech. One would assume it works to the Wolfpack’s favor that they have a game under their belt and VT does not. State has played VT five times since they entered the ACC, winning the first one and losing the subsequent four.
State immediately follows this up by playing the #21 Fighting Pittsters of Pitt College. I feel like I blacked out at some point and emerged with Pitt somehow being a top 25 team, how did that happen? It kind of doesn’t matter, a win would be a win. They’re always over there in the Coastal, my only real reference to them is that time Nyheim Hines ran roughshod over them. The following year they went 7-5 and WON THE DIVISION, then matched that record last year. But okay, top 25 it is!
(checks notes...) Okay, looks like after that there’s some newly un-accredited school in the town next to Durham, probably a community college. Seem to be getting some wholly unwarranted buzz. Let’s wait for the rankings page to load here..... (does spit take) #11!! Let’s move on before I throw my laptop out the window.
Finally, it’s the winner of the annual “ARE THEY BACK?!!?” award: Miami. The amazingly talented foursome on the ACC Network literally asked Mark Richt this on live TV Saturday night. He laughed it off since he heard a million variations of that question asked of him when he was the coach there. They weren’t back then, maybe they are now? Wait until November 6th to find out.
Obviously, it’s not likely NC State will beat all of these teams. They probably won’t be favored in nearly all of them. But the chances are there, and that’s all you can ask for. After years of complaining about the quality of the Coastal division, the Pack’s schedule is finally filled with teams on that side of the conference. It just turns out that when this happened four of those teams suddenly became top 25. Can Doeren and crew take advantage to redeem the depressing dumpster fire that is 2020?
For all of our sakes I hope so, we could use the win.