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NC State Football Top 10 Countdown!

We’re making a list and counting backwards!

NCAA Football: ACC Kickoff Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Football is just around the corner, folks, can’t you feel it!? We figured what better way to get us all ready than counting down the top storylines heading into this season. Here’s the wrinkle: These are all things we’re either excited or worried about. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with the team receiving their highest preseason ranking in program history. We know that dreaded SSUPO wants to rear its ugly head, so while we’re mostly gaga over this team, there will be a few areas that are still question marks. Alec and Essad will break down the top 10 topics their thinking about as kickoff fast approaches.

And with that, let’s get to counting!

#10. “The moment”.

Excited or Worried? EXCITED!

Essad: NC State fans are always worried about the Pack shrinking when the big moment arrives. This team showed last year they can handle those moments, and I’m excited for them to push that to the next level this year. Debbie Downers can point to the Mississippi State, Wake Forest and Miami games last year as examples of the Wolfpack not stepping up to the moment when it mattered most. My counter to that is twofold. The whole rest of that season included moment after moment of the Pack banding together when it was needed most. Also, this is the same group of guys that went through those close losses last year, and will be mature enough to know how to overcome those spots the next time they pop up, which they surely will. Also also, I would say that NC State did NOT shrink from the key moments last year, putting aside the Miss State game. Against both Wake and Miami, this team hung in there until the very end. You could make the case those games were lost on a combination of bad officiating and questionable playcalling/scheme decisions as opposed to the team wilting.

Listen, I get it. I was in the building two years in a row when Philip Rivers led teams held 14 point leads with 7:30 remaining against [redacted] and still lost those games. As fans, we remember those heartbreaking moments sometimes more than the big wins. I think about that 2018 loss to Wake Forest a LOT, probably more than the comeback win against unc last year. We remember moments like that loss and worry about starting the season in the top 15 with a target on the team’s back. But this team won that unc game, it’s not the same group that couldn’t close on national TV while ranked. Will it mean the team will be undefeated? Likely, no, but that’s not the point. They’re in it to win it, and they have enough leaders to keep everyone’s head level. I can’t think of another NC State team in the last 20 years I’ve been as sure of their ability to meet the moment as this one.

Alec: There is nothing about this team that makes me wary of them shrinking in crunch time. Whenever this topic comes up, I go back to the first run Dave Doeren had before rebuilding, which was 2016-18. Those teams were really bad in the fourth quarter and that’s why they couldn’t win a title. In games where State was tied or trailed by one score in the fourth quarter, it was 3-10 over those three years. Since 2020, State is 7-4 in such games. This team is just better at finishing the job than the recent State teams you could compare it to. 7-4 is actually a pretty strong record in a stat category that should theoretically sway heavily toward the loss column.

That’s part of why I think this team is ready. Because there is going to come a point against Clemson or Wake Forest or whoever else when it’s time to go and win the damn game, and I haven’t seen anything from this group that makes me doubt their ability to do that. They’ve been there done that, and Devin Leary is about as good at the end of the game as any QB in America. That’s a big deal for NC State, which is never going to be a team that blows out 90% of its schedule.