As we get ready to enter ACC time, three weeks into the season we’ve had a chance to see the rest of the conference (except FSU). Let’s revisit our season expectations and discuss what we think would be the ceiling and the floor for this NC State football team in conference play.
Coming out slow is NC State's forte. Expectations shmectectations, hype shmype. We've seen this show before, in hindsight we should have seen that SC loss coming.
Hurricane Irma aside, is it weird FSU had a bye week scheduled after week 2? It’s hard to guess how they’ll look, but we can always assume “very good to great”. I think we could be looking at one of piratewolf's gif recaps where it starts with a "let's do this" one, and quickly goes to the Frank Drebin fireworks factory exploding "nothing to see here!", followed by something involving tears. DD and staff will earn their paychecks if they can minimize the damage inflicted by one loss without spiraling.
Ceiling: I predicted 5-3 in ACC, and I’m going to stick with that. That should be considered a success, even if it’s a third place Atlantic finish with losses to FSU, Clemson and one more garbage loss that always happens. If this happens, I will reduce the hot seat rating to 1.5 flame emoji. Every additional win will reduce the rating by 0.5 emoji, that’s how math works right?
Floor: At worst I think State finishes 3-5. I'm not worried about the offense, but run game consistency has been worrisome. I'm mostly worried about the intangibles. Taking care of the ball, getting stops and takeaways, all the teams that are special. When these things compound, we’ve seen how frustrating it can be, like when the defense can’t get off the field or gives up those daggone endless short passes. If the Pack slips at Notre Dame (non conference), they could be looking at a four game losing streak. BC would be a garbage loss, but Wake Forest might actually be good.
Many people are suggesting we stop attempting field goals and just go for it, and I wouldn’t oppose this approach. It would at least be more fun than cringing when a 35 yard kick bounces off the upright.
The way I look at it, the conference match-ups fall into these three buckets:
- Gonna Win: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College
- Toss-Up: Louisville, Wake Forest, North Carolina
- Ain't Gonna Happen: Florida State, Clemson
Syracuse, Pitt, and BC all have substantial problems in one or more areas that make them very beatable, especially against this State team. Louisville is still dangerous as all hell on offense, but their defense is pretty weak; still, that would have to be viewed as a minor upset by State to win, but it's close enough to even that I'll consider it a toss-up. Before the season started, I would have put Wake into the 'Gonna Win' column, but they've played very well through the first three weeks and that - coupled with State's performances thus far - puts that game squarely in the 'Toss-Up' category. The 2017 State team should beat the 2017 UNC-CH team, but it's a rivalry game, so I'm going to include it in the 'Toss-Up' category. FSU (even though we only have one game of evidence) and Clemson (fuuuug) look like far superior teams that State has no business beating.
Given the above, here's how I see the conference slate shaking out:
- Ceiling: 6-2
- Floor: 3-5
- Reality: 4-4 or 5-3
Before the season started, I said that 5-3 would be a success. That’s still attainable thanks to Syracuse being in early rebuild mode, BC somehow still not understanding that an offense is the best way to put points on the board, and a Pitt team that fell off hard after last year. Let’s hope that UNC-CH doesn’t run to the Football Supply Store and pick up a defense before the end of season match-up, and while I hope that Wake is better for the sake of the overall strength of the division, let’s hope they’re not that much better.
Who honestly knows man. Based on what I’ve seen from the rest of the conference I think we can go 7-1, but based on what I’ve seen from us a winning record would be awesome. I believe that one big win will get the train rolling and that will give us confidence to finish games that we haven’t finished under Doeren. I think the circumstances surrounding FSU help us out a lot and give us a legitimate chance to win on the road. We should score at least 35 against Louisville. Clemson isn’t as good as they looked against Louisville, but that would still be a major upset. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that we beat FSU and Louisville, but if we don’t beat either, then we are in serious trouble. At the end of the day, there’s too much talent and experience to keep losing every game a different way.
Ceiling: 7-1. We go into the Clemson game with the Atlantic Division on the line, but fall just short. The team finally gets a big win(s) and we play in the New Year’s Six.
Floor: 2-6. Everything falls apart. Hopefully they let Doeren finish the season in peace, unlike what happened to Gottfried.
Reality: 6-2. Call me crazy but I think it clicks this weekend against a freshman QB who should be redshirting. We go on to beat Louisville, and lose to BC after losing the de facto Atlantic championship game in a hard fought battle against Clemson.
I keep trying to re-claim that preseason optimism that we had about what this team could potentially accomplish and I just can’t get there. I haven’t seen enough since the South Carolina game to feel like this NC State group has an eight- or nine-win season in it. I hope to hell that I’m wrong about that, but I see too many critical flaws.
Bill Connelly’s projections have State as most likely to finish with six or seven wins, and unfortunately that feels about right to me. I would call an eight-win regular season the ceiling at this point, and on the other end, a disappointing 5-7 campaign would be the floor.
I really really wanted this year to be different, but I suspect another 3-5 run through league play and six or seven wins is what we’ll have at the end of November. This weekend could go a long way toward changing my mind here.
There you have it. Agree/disagree? What are your predictions for this team in ACC play? Any suggestions for future roundtables?