We aren’t going to get a normal 2020 football season, so I figured I might as well try to simulate one, using ... um, NCAA 2007. In fact I figured I might as well go ahead and start simulating an entire alternate universe of NC State football, where 2006 is the first season managed by up-and-coming head coach David DeKalb.
— Coach DeKalb—he’s from Peoria originally—is taking over the NC State football program in 2006 just to see how strange things might become in a 2006-and-beyond where time and coaching pressure don’t exist, and someone can just apply the talent on hand without worrying about the rest of that crap.
— I decided I’ll handle recruiting, but I’m not playing, just simulating the games. Coach DeKalb has to take care of the rest. (All due credit to Ricky O’Donnell for the inspiration—if you aren’t following the Western Illinois saga, you should be.)
— For Year 1, I tried to match NC State’s 2020 schedule as well as the game would allow. I managed to get Louisville (non-conference), Troy (same), and Delaware on the slate in their appropriate venues, but Dartmouth ended up replacing Liberty. Also, Maryland is still in the league, while Syracuse and Pittsburgh (and Louisville) are not. Nothing I can do about that. Mississippi State proved impossible to schedule. Otherwise, the conference home/road splits matched 2020.
In this version of NCAA Football, NC State’s program boasts a four-star prestige rating (out of six stars; why six? who knows!) and that’s a lot that we can work with here. Big reason why Coach took the gig; the last guy just wasn’t getting through to these players anymore, but the recruiting track record is not bad and the talent is playable.
Marcus Stone is our starting quarterback, regardless of what happens—he’s the highest-rated player at the position, and frankly we’re excited what he can bring to the position, just in a generally vague sense.
NC State begins the season at No. 10 Louisville, and despite our status as considerable underdogs, and our unfamiliarity navigating a dust bowl of pizza boxes, we nearly pull off a stunner but lose, 39-35. The Pack’s Lamart Barrett leads the way with seven grabs for 147 yards and a score.
In Week 2, State crushes Delaware, 52-14.
In Week 3, State delivers an underrated road win at Troy, 35-14. We’re feeling pretty good at this point.
Boston College is the opponent in Week 4, and State falls at home, 34-24. That seems about right. But while we’re just 2-2, we’ve led at the half of every single game this season
Marcus Stone is struggling: 56% completion rate, with 10 TDs against seven interceptions. Andre Brown is a stud, however: 411 yards on 6.7 per carry. We should probably let Andre Brown account for more of this offense.
The middle-third of the schedule delivers another 2-2 run, but the Pack upsets No. 10 (all rankings are up-to-the-week) FSU at home, 17-14. The Pack also crushes Maryland, 34-7. The losses come at the hands of Wake Forest (16-21) and Virginia (27-30).
We’ve been either tied or leading at the half in seven of the first eight games and yet we’re just 4-4. SURELY there is a course correction coming.
And there is, as we sweep the last four games, beating Georgia Tech, 34-21; then Clemson, 32-24; then (19) UNC 34-26; and finally Dartmouth, 77-6. What a run. Our bowl eligibility was very much up in the air, but after this we not only get that taken care of, we win the Atlantic Division outright at 5-3, which is just beyond darkly funny.
Florida State, Boston College, and Maryland finish in a tie for second in the Atlantic at 7-5 (4-4). David DeKalb just won the Atlantic in his first year like it was nothing, but also exceptionally arduous, and considerably painful, but also in the end, a thing that happened. What a team.
Stone’s performance doesn’t get any better, but Andre Brown’s average of over 100 yards rushing per game helps carry the team. Brown ends up breaking State’s single-season rushing record.
This sets up an ACC title game between NC State, which has reached No. 22 in the AP Poll at this point, and second-ranked Miami. The Hurricanes win in overtime, 34-31. Whew, well I’m glad I didn’t see that one.
NC State receives a Gator Bowl invitation to play No. 23 Colorado (9-3). In standard fashion, the Wolfpack manages to come up just short in a one-possession game, falling 24-21. Thus concludes the strangest 8-6 year you’ll find. Notre Dame beats Miami in the national title game.
Behind closed doors, the NC State coaching staff feels pretty good about this first year—their team either led or was tied at the half in 10 of 12 regular season games and won both games where it trailed at the break. Just needed a few more bounces. On to the glory and optimism of 2007! On to recruiting.
Recruiting in this game, in this era, is slightly fucked up. You get a certain number of recruiting points every year, and you can choose to spend some of them on convincing your underclassmen not to turn pro. There’s not a “let’s talk about this” or an “I think you and your parents are the best to judge this” option; merely, “come back, goddammit,”
So anyway I convinced DeMario Pressley to come back to college for his senior year (he was set on going pro) and I immediately felt terrible about it. Coach DeKalb is not going to be about this moving forward.
(But DeMario is our best player heading into 2007. About this Coach does not feel bad,)
It is time now to re-assess where we are at quarterback-wise:
History tells us it’s also time to transition Marcus Stone to tight end, in a graceful manner that could well go unnoticed; gently as a breeze through a glen, quietly like a sprinkle on a sundae, he’ll be reconfigured just so.
I see; well it’s not like I was thinking about it seriously.