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Exorcising futility: NC State football's 2014 turnaround

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A lot changes in 12 months, including the short-term outlook of a football program. This time last year we were trying to figure out how much better NC State would be after a winless campaign in the ACC. And after looking at the historical data for college football sad-sacks, it seemed a fair bet that State would pick up at least an additional two wins.

Instead the Wolfpack picked up five, or four if you want to exclude the bowl game. Here's the updated table from that post, showing every ACC team to go winless in league play since 1992, and their results the year after.

Year Team Record Record the following year Gain in conf. wins Gain/loss in overall wins
1992 Duke 2-9 (0-8) 3-8 (2-6) 2 1
1994 Georgia Tech 1-10 (0-8) 6-5 (5-3) 5 5
1995 Wake 1-10 (0-8) 3-8 (1-7) 1 2
1996 Duke 0-11 (0-8) 2-9 (0-8) 0 2
1997 Duke 2-9 (0-8) 3-8 (2-6) 2 1
2000 Duke 0-11 (0-8) 0-11 (0-8) 0 0
2001 Duke 0-11 (0-8) 2-10 (0-8) 0 2
2002 Duke 2-10 (0-8) 4-8 (2-6) 2 2
2005 Duke 1-10 (0-8) 0-12 (0-8) 0 -1
2006 Duke 0-12 (0-8) 1-11 (0-8) 0 1
2007 Duke 1-11 (0-8) 4-8 (1-7) 1 3
2013 Virginia 2-10 (0-8) 5-7 (3-5) 3 3
2013 NC State 3-9 (0-8) 8-5 (3-5) 3 5
AVG 1.5 2.0


Both NC State and Virginia were much improved in 2014, breaking through with three conference wins apiece--that's a fine step forward for any team coming off an oh-fer. Georgia Tech is still the gold standard for turnarounds in the modern ACC era, since the Jackets are the only group to go from winless to winning record in conference play. NC State matched the Jackets' +5 in overall wins, but that Tech team didn't have the opportunity to play in a bowl game like State did.

Still, there's no denying that what NC State did last season is rare. On 60 occasions since 1992, a Power 5 team has gone winless in conference play. A team hit .500 or better the following season in only 14 of those 60 cases. State is in that group.

The non-conference schedule was created to set the table for a turnaround, and it worked--it really had to work, and fortunately it proved to be the life preserver this team needed to get through its FSU-Clemson-Louisville stretch without becoming totally demoralized. The Pack also welcomed in a new starting quarterback, who was a vast improvement over his predecessors.

Combine that with a young team developing as the year progressed, and a more forgiving schedule down the stretch, and hello, significant raw improvement.