While Clemson remains the obvious class of the Atlantic, the pecking order in the middle of the division has rarely been murkier than it is now. And that’s not because everybody else is imploding at the specter of having to deal with the Tigers.
Six of the division’s seven teams rank in the pre-season S&P+ top-50 (Syracuse being the exception), with four of them bunched within 19 spots of each other. NC State, BC, Wake Forest, and Louisville look so similar in terms of overall quality that there will probably be plenty of close games played between them.
Six of the Wolfpack’s league games have a predicted scoring margin of a touchdown or less, so there is potential for heart-explodin’ late-game terror to a varying degree in each case. Fun! Heh yes, fun. Fun is the word I mean.
NC State split its one-possession games in 2017 but may need to win more than its fair share of coin flips in 2018 to match its win total from a year ago. It’s tempting to ponder a year where they got exceptionally lucky and won nearly all of their close games, but this is a sadistic form of fan fiction.
Based on the pre-season win probabilities estimated for each game by S&P+, State has about a 90% chance of finishing somewhere between five wins and nine. The optimistic outlook would be a resurgent kicking game helping the Pack finish with another eight-win season, which would keep the program’s overall momentum going forward.
But I could see State landing anywhere in that 5-9 win range, and no matter how it turns out, things are gonna turn a little dicey along the way.