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BTP Roundtable - 2017 Season Closeout Edition

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Let’s reflect one more time on this (great?) season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 North Carolina at NC State Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another football season in the books. 2017 truly included some roller coaster moments. Peak moments of hype surpassed anything the program has ever seen save for a fleeting moment during the Rivers era. Let’s discuss:

What was your favorite moment of the season?

TheRealEssad: Louisville may not have ended up being the elite team we expected, but that win included some great performances and the best Carter-Finley crowd in years. The gif of the student section swaying back and forth will live on in legend. All involved on and off the field rose to the occasion to make such a memorable moment in time.

PirateWolf: This one’s easy for me: the Louisville game. The atmosphere was fantastic and the team played great.

Ejoebarry: My favorite moment has to be the fourth quarter against Clemson when we scored to get within 3, got a stop, and got the ball back. The entire stadium was going nuts during the TV timeout while they played Swag Surfin’. It was unbelievable.

Who's your MVP of the season?

TheRealEssad: Nyheim Hines. There are a few different candidates here, but nobody put the team on their back as often as Hines. He seemed to sense when things were on the verge of slipping, and would come through right when those "here we go again" feelings of the past would creep in. Whether in the backfield or returning kicks, he had huge play after huge play, and the Wolfpack wouldn't have been as successful without him.

PirateWolf: Nyheim Hines. Although I think part of that is because we (unfortunately) were able to witness the impact/void when he wasn’t around. If Finley missed the same amount of time that Hines did, he might be the MVP instead.

Ejoebarry: Nyheim. We saw what happened when he was out, and that wasn’t a coincidence. If he’s fully healthy against Clemson then we win that game and go to Charlotte. He nearly set the all-purpose yards record here and missed parts of three games. I think he is a Heisman contender if he stays fully healthy next year.

Compared to your original definition of success, how successful do you feel this season was? Should fans feel any disappointment with how the season turned out?

TheRealEssad: I originally said: “8-4 (5-3), 3rd in the ACC Atlantic, bowl win or loss. Top 23 ranking in final AP poll.”

It can be easy to feel disappointment when thinking of what could have been, but this was a really great season, even if there was room for it to be historic. But a final record of 9-4 (6-2) exceeded expectations. Dave Doeren pointed out that NC State was 13 points from playing in the ACC championship game. You can take that two ways. Glass half-full take would be that is something to build on for next year. Glass half-empty take would be that’s just State coming up short (again). I prefer the half-full view. This team hit some high highs not seen in a decade and a half. Second place in by far the harder of the two divisions (regardless of how FSU and Louisville turned out) is nothing to sneeze at.

PirateWolf:

“I hate to put the measure of a successful season up to a certain win threshold, but if I had to, I’d say 8-4 (5-3) is a minimum.”

Hey, guys! The team was successful! They cleared the imaginary bar of wins I set!

But seriously, this season was a success, both by my arbitrary level set or by any other reasonable one. The team won the most conference games in 20+ years and tied for the 2nd most single season wins in school history.

Yes, the fans should feel a certain level of disappointment because, well, this team was better than South Carolina and the team was on the wrong side of a judgement call in the Wake Forest game... the team also had a chance to beat Clemson. But even so, the program is on an undeniable upward trajectory and you have to feel good about that.

Ejoebarry:

“I’ll go 9-4 (5-3) as a successful season, even though I think we can and should win 10 games, especially considering it needs to be a breakout season for Doeren, but based on the fact that we have like one 10 win season in history, I’ll settle for 9.”

Yes it was successful. It could have been better but that’s how it is building a program. You don’t go from 6-6 to 10-2 and sustain it in the blink of an eye. What we are building is sustainable.

A popular opinion has been that NC State would have beaten Miami in the ACC title game if they’d just gotten passed Clemson. Agree/Disagree/Not worth speculating at this point?

TheRealEssad: I don’t think it’s worth speculating, hard to say what would have happened in that game. The Atlantic was definitely the harder division, and Miami benefitted from weaker competition. They won a lot of close games, but NC State also had a consistent knack for making unforced errors. Maybe Miami would have found a way win like they did many other times. They did kill Notre Dame, but also, they started the season 10-0 and finished 10-3. Maybe the turnover chain got rusty.

PirateWolf: Based on how the two teams were playing at the end of the season, yes, I do think State would have beat Miami in the ACC Championship Game had that been the match-up. Outside of their two week stretch against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, Miami was squeaking by. Miami does have the advantage in advanced metrics, but that ACCCG would have pretty much been a home game for State, too.

Ejoebarry: Absolutely. We were the second best team in the conference and it wasn’t close. The difference between us and Miami (besides the fact one of us had to get past Clemson to get to Charlotte) was forcing turnovers. We all know how good Miami was at forcing them and that can (did) cover a lot of their shortcomings. On the other hand, we struggled forcing turnovers all year. I would like to see more emphasis on forcing turnovers next year.

What would you like to see more of next year?

TheRealEssad: Hines and Finley (now that we know he’s returning), everything you did just do that..again.

PirateWolf: JaySam... but that’s not an option. Dang.

I would like to see better red zone execution from the offense (including more fades/jump balls to Harmon), more consistent special teams play, and for the defense to show that this year was the outlier (based on advanced metrics) an an otherwise consistent upward/improving trend for Doeren and Huxtable.

Ejoebarry: Kelvin Harmon. I know we’ve got weapons everywhere on offense but this guy needs ten targets a game. He’s a stud. He had a wide receiver trying to cover him on the final drive against Clemson and had back to back big gains to get us down the field. Then we didn’t go back to him the rest of the drive (if I’m not mistaken) and we know how that turned out. Also, in the red zone, just throw him jump balls.

What would you like to NOT see again next year?

TheRealEssad: Trick plays, or at least drastically reduced. We get it, Drink, you’re crafty with the white board. Now just draw up even more plays to take advantage of our huge receivers, or maybe use Hines as a receiver more. Runner up to this is punting inside the 40.

PirateWolf: Kind of keeping with the first theme I mentioned in the last section, I’d like to not see the cutesy play calling in the red zone, especially inside the five. The offensive line that this team has is too good to not just tell them “clear the way, fellas” and let Hines or Gallaspy follow them in. I’d also like to see zero punts from inside the opponent’s 40. And the Wildcat can go bye-bye, too.

Ejoebarry: Getting cute in the red zone. Run our typical offense. If you want to get cute, do it between the 40s. And like I said, more jump balls to Kelvin. It’s not hard.

We know that recruiting has been going very well, so let’s look at the BIGGER picture moving forward. Based on the level of play showed in the College Football Playoff semi-final games, do you think Doeren has the momentum to get the team competing at that level? Or should we just be satisfied contending at the conference level?

TheRealEssad: I would love to compete nationally, but State hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979. If you graphed it, I’d wager that’s outside the lifetime of 90%+ the ages of the readers of this site. The Wolfpack are already at the level to compete for the conference. They were one win away this year, that’s closer than even Philip Rivers got. I’m not convinced the program is ready to compete at THAT high a level just yet, and I’m okay with that. The teams in the top 4 all have another level of polish we haven’t seen yet, where they avoid making mental mistakes, really make teams pay for errors, keep their foot on the gas when ahead, and don’t play down to their competition. To their credit, NC State improved a lot in those areas this season, but still have work to do.

PirateWolf: Until the trajectory starts to decrease, yes, I do. Doeren started with nothing. He brought in good talent and developed them into great players. Now he’s getting great talent and we’ll see what he does with them. If he can continue the year-over-year improvement that he has shown to this point, then eventually I think we’ll see State compete at that national/CFP level. Until then, I think us State fans should be satisfied with the fact that we’re contending at the conference level and it’s not some fluke flash-in-the-pan performance.

Ejoebarry: That’s a big step but at this point if you win the ACC, you’re probably in contention for the playoffs. Not to mention, we’ve been the better team on the field two years in a row against Clemson, who is one of the two best programs in the country. We may have surprised them last year but I guarantee you they weren’t surprised this year, yet we still outplayed them. You mention recruiting, but we have to remember this team was pretty much based on player development. According to 247 sports, we have the 44th best team in the country based on recruiting, but the results were a top 25 team (that probably should have been top 15). This 2018 class will be top 25, and if we can make it back to back top 25 recruiting classes (we’ve got a good shot) now you’re increasing the talent to go along with player development. That’s how you take the next step.

Is it weird that one of the most anticipated recruits in recent memory is a kicker?

TheRealEssad: Yeah, but it’s not unwarranted. Every time I see another team making a kick from 45+, I think “must be nice”. My favorite two Twitter replies sent to Chris Dunn have been, “Yo man we need you”, and someone asking him to wrap himself in bubble wrap before going to campus. Having a potentially awesome kicker could alter whole gameplans. It could also mean more Doeren-style conservative playcalling and settling for field goals, but let’s not think about such negative thoughts right now when we might see a 50 yarder next year!

PirateWolf: Umm... yes. Yes, it is. Let’s temper expectations, though. If you assume that this 18-year-old kid is going to come in and be the foot of God, then you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. No one knows how Chris Dunn will do at the collegiate level, but let’s give the kid room to breathe and support him regardless of what happens.

But, yeah, hopefully he kicks ass from Day 1.

Ejoebarry: It’s definitely weird but we as fans are part of the issue. If everybody freaks out after he misses one kick, it could get in his head much like what happened with Bambard. Kicking is all mental, that’s why it’s so hard to recruit.