NC State might feel a bit stuck in neutral these last few years, and certainly if you strictly by results, that’s true. After all, following up an 8-5 season with back-to-back 7-6 campaigns doesn’t exactly scream “upward trajectory.”
But the advanced statistics generally agree that NC State improved from 2015 to 2016, Bill Connelly’s S&P+ in particular. In a post on the Mothership earlier Monday, he looked at five-year trends in S&P+ for each FBS school.
NC State checks in at No. 50 for the five-year span of 2012-16 with an S&P+ average of 3.8. However, that represents a significant increase from the previous five-year window (‘11-’15), when State’s average was 0.9. The net +2.9 change is the 13th largest in FBS.
(Note: the S&P numbers here represent opponent-adjusted scoring margin. In 2016, for instance, State finished +10.6. Basically, it’s ADJ Pts/G - ADJ PtsAllowed/G + ADJ SPECIAL TEAMS Pts/G. You will no doubt be shocked to learn that NCSU’s special teams cost the Pack an average of 1.4 points per game.)
What this is saying, basically, is that NC State’s performance has been getting better lately, and perhaps puts the program closer to a breakthrough than its 7-6 record would suggest. Of course, nothing is ever guaranteed in sports, and even with the improvement, lots can get in the way of positive results/outcomes. (As we have, ahem, seen.) The leap to a 25th-place finish in 2016, however, is encouraging.
Another step up the ladder in 2017 certainly looks feasible—maybe even with more of those positive result things—”wins” I believe they’re called—I keep hearing about.