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NC State's future non-conference schedules rank among easiest in ACC

NC State isn't scheduling tough, which makes sense, but also isn't much fun.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

We already know that NC State's 2015 non-conference football schedule doesn't look like it's going to feature a lot of challenges. It's one of the easiest non-conference slates in the ACC, and as was the case with the 2014 schedule, it was assembled with the current rebuilding status of the program in mind.

The degree of difficulty won't increase significantly for NC State in the years beyond 2015, as this research presented by David Hale illustrates. ESPN looked at the next five seasons of non-conference schedules for each ACC team and ranked them, and they found State's group of OOC foes to be the second-easiest in the league.

There is obviously some fluidity with this, since an opponent's strength can be difficult to project three or four years down the road. But the Wolfpack is definitely in position for continued non-conference success--it has only four Power Five teams scheduled in the next five years (and that includes Notre Dame), to go with five FCS teams and 11 FBS mid-majors.

There is ruthless pragmatism to these schedules--ESPN's projections suggest that an average college football team would be expected to win 64.4% of the Pack's next 20 non-conference games. That's roughly a 13-6 record for that span, which would help a whole lot in getting bowl eligible, improving the chances State gets to better bowl destinations, etc.

Strength of schedule is more important in this new College Football Playoff era, which is one reason why you'll see Clemson and FSU putting together tough OOC slates (the convenience of SEC in-state rivals makes that job easier, to be fair), but should that be a consideration for a program like NC State right now? Heck no. We might look back on this period five years from now and lament a lack of foresight, but honestly, it's unlikely that the Pack will be a CFP contender in the next half decade.

For NC State, the most important thing is finding the right balance. Okay, you soften the schedule up so that a 2014 is possible for your rebuilding program. You do it again in 2015 to build continuity and theoretically take advantage of heightened recruiting success. But when does the program reach a point where these schedules move beyond pragmatic and become gratuitous?

That's a more difficult question in college football than in college hoops, which makes it more difficult to toe that line. NC State is in a tough division and doesn't need a lot of tough OOC games, but on the other hand, there's not a lot to look forward to from the fan's perspective. Notre Dame at Carter-Finley in 2016, WVU in 2018, ECU in 2019. Beyond that... Marshall? Anybody want some Marshall? And in the even years, when Clemson and Louisville are road games, the non-conference glares a bit brighter.

Schedules four or five years down the road are not exactly set in stone, so maybe NC State's situation will change. At this point, though, it's fair to say that State's in good shape to keep churning out seven- or eight-win seasons, probably with more than a few yawns along the way.