It’s no secret that the NC State football team has struggled in the middle portion of the schedule on a yearly basis under Dave Doeren. I’m not telling you anything new here. And far be it from me to rain on the preseason parade of hype, but if NC State is going to exceed expectations in 2019, it will need to break from the unfortunate yearly tradition of not breaking .500 in the middle stretch of the season.
During Doeren’s tenure, Wolfpack teams have come out of the gate hot to the tune of a 21-4 combined record across the months of August (2-0) and September (19-4). The issue has been that October-to-November run. From Game 6 (early/mid October) to Game 9 (early/mid November), NC State is just a combined 6-18 in the Doeren era. That’s... that’s less than desirable.
Now, part of this does come down to scheduling oddities. Of the 15 ranked opponents that NC State has played from 2013-2018, nine of them have been scheduled between Games 6 and Games 9 (State is 1-8 in those games, and 2-13 overall vs ranked teams under Doeren). Yes, 60% of games against ranked teams have come in 30% of the schedule. Go figure.
But even then, State is just 5-10 against unranked opponents in Games 6-9, and only three of those losses were one-possession games, with the average margin of losses being over 14 points. The issue hasn’t been heartbreakingly close losses or scheduling oddities against ranked foes; it’s been a lack of competitive football.
This year’s schedule is not going to make breaking the trend easy. Games 6-9 of the 2019 schedule feature:
- vs Syracuse (Thursday night)
- @ Boston College
- @ Wake Forest
- vs Clemson
That’s likely the pivotal four-game stretch of the season for the Wolfpack. Those four games constitute four of State’s six lowest win probability games for 2019 according to S&P+. Go 3-1 and you may be looking at a 10-win season. Go 1-3 and a things swing dramatically.
State should start off the season with at worst a 3-1 record, so a hot start should again be in the books. The question remains, though: is this the season that the Wolfpack can avoid the mid-season lull and propel itself to exceeded expectations?