Welcome to a new and briefly-lived feature on the site, where I will argue with myself. Our second topic: NC State football. NC State finished last season playing its best football, knocking the ever-living footballs out of Wake Forest and UNC before beating UCF in the Bitcoin Bowl. Was that a sign of things to come in 2015? I weighed in. And now I disagree with myself.
I look at the end of last season, and I catch myself wondering, what the heck are we worrying about? That team changed; forget about the opponents, that team was different. Dave Huxtable discovered a lost bottle of Jon Tenuta's blitzahol, and from that point on, the defense was a different animal. Matt Canada let Jacoby Brissett roam free, and that offense was different.
Beating the crud out of a Wake Forest team with a historically terrible offensive line and passing game is one thing you can dismiss, but handling North Carolina at home is impressive, no matter how routine it's become. And Central Florida was the best the AAC had to offer last season, finishing only five spots behind State in the final F/+ rankings. State controlled that bowl game--which was essentially on UCF's home soil--for the better part of three quarters.
This year NC State has Matt Dayes an option out of the backfield or in the passing game. Jaylen Samuels as a runner or a pass-catcher. Nyheim Hines as a runner or pass-catcher. That plus Shadrach Thornton's steady rushing production, not to mention whatever might come from Reggie Gallaspy and Johnny Frasier. This offense has never been in a better position to execute exactly what Dave Doeren and Matt Canada want to do, and they have a pretty good quarterback to orchestrate the whole thing.
The wide receiver position will sort itself out; there is enough talent and experience on hand to patch together a solid group, even if that's as far as it goes. State can get creative with its tight ends and running backs, which I think is an underrated factor here.
Defensively, NC State will have a couple of blue-chip recruits contributing on the defensive line for the first time in a long time. Kentavius Street can be a breakout player, but this is still a scary amount of inexperience in the two-deep. Talented, for sure, but unproven. I mean, I love the idea of a McKever-Hill-Street-Rose line as much as the next guy but that is going to take some work. By the second half of the season, that could be a strength of the defense.
The back four is going to be excellent, and I'll bet you they top their rate from last year of one interception per 40 opponent pass attempts. Improving on that INT rate a bit can make a significant difference, and by the way, have you seen Germaine Pratt lately?
The defense will be good enough to at least match what it did in 2014, and State's offense will be better thanks to its injection of skill-position talent, Jacoby Brissettt's added polish, and Jaylen Samuels' added Jaylen Samuels. The schedule really gives these dudes an opportunity in 2015, and I think they can take it.