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For NC State, a breakthrough year is going to require more consistency

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

If you break down NC State's 2014 season into three chunks, you've essentially got the summary of the year. The Wolfpack took advantage of its non-conference schedule to start 4-0, then went 1-3 over the next four games, and then finished 3-1, including the bowl game.

That made for a per-game percentile performance graph that described our emotions as much as it did the team's results. State bottomed out to an incredible degree against Clemson, but it also had dominant road performances against South Florida and UNC, plus an outstanding effort against UCF in the Knights' back yard.

NC State was one of the most volatile teams in the country, per Bill Connelly's percentile performance metrics. The Pack's best games put it in the 93rd percentile, while its worst (Clemson) put State near the bottom of the FBS. Here are Bill's numbers: max percentile, with rank; minimum percentile; median percentile; mean percentile; and variance.

Team Max Rk Min Rk Median Rk Mean Rk Variance Rk Overall S&P+ Rk
NC State 93% 57 1% 114 74% 29 58% 49 11% 124 4.0 50

The peaks and valleys made State one of the more variable week-to-week bets in 2014, but we can probably go farther than that and say that volatility could go drive-to-drive or quarter-to-quarter. Remember the Boston College game, where State scored touchdowns on its first two drives, then went scoreless the rest of the way? Or the Georgia Tech game, where the Pack again came out strong only to fizzle over the last three quarters of the game. (Granted, there were some serious turnover shenanigans involved in that meltdown against GT.)

So I guess the motto for 2015 should be, uh ... Raise The Floor? Yeah that's not going to sell any t-shirts, but it'll be an important indicator for Dave Doeren's program. In each of his first two years, State's had a game where the bottom completely fell out, to the point of embarrassment. The Pack offered so little resistance to FSU in 2013 and Clemson in 2014, it was jarring, and while there are reasonable explanations for both results, those games are enough to lend some doubt to 2015.

Are these guys grown up now, or is there still too much youth in the two-deep for the team to be trustworthy? The first step is going to be in halting the smaller lapses, and playing at a more even keel against the likes of Syracuse and Boston College. Of course, NC State's league season doesn't start with those middleweights, so the overall picture may be jumbled. So it goes.