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NC State football’s best teams by decade

Let’s look back.

North Carolina State Wolfpack v Pittsburgh Panthers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Last week, Bill Connelly wrote a piece in which he ranked the best college football teams by decade according to SP+. NC State did not rank in the top 10 for any decade, and that’s okay. Listen, none of the decades that have happened so far have been our decade; this happens to a lot of teams.

Bill was kind enough to include all of his data for each school (which you can peruse here), though, and below I have listed the top-rated NC State team for each decade. Little is known about some of these teams, so I’ve filled in the blanks here and there with things I made up.


1908 — 16th in SP+ (6-1 record)
NC State played Wake Forest twice that season, winning the two meetings by a combined 101-0. Seizing the opportunity at hand, the Wolfpack hastily added five more games against Wake Forest set to be played that December. Might this have been the first 10-win team in school history? Sadly, we’ll never know, as they all died of dysentery on a road trip to Oregon in late November.


1910 — 24th (4-0-2)
NC State managed to rebuild quickly, vowing never to go to the west coast again, except perhaps for a novelty game at a baseball field. Wouldn’t that be a delight! Anyway, the Pack ran off an undefeated season thanks to star kicker Hobgob McCracken, who averaged an incredible 30.7 yards per punt. State would simply punt at any given opportunity and wait for the other team to fumble the ball away in scoring territory. This was a winning strategy, as teams averaged 23.5 fumbles per game that year.


1927 — 32nd (9-1)
The 20s were difficult on college sports in general, as the nation’s young men all thought to themselves, “hey, maybe I should open a speakeasy. That’ll be fun, right? I get a couple friends to get in on it. We’ll be equal partners.” And so they did. And then went to jail.


1932 — 68th (6-1-2)
The nation’s morale was exceptionally low at this point, what with the Great Depression, and the other great depression, which is to say the lack of any kind of buzz on account of booze still not being legal. Everyone tried to do a little football, to see if it would help, but it mostly didn’t. NC State’s players decided to lose a game on purpose just to see if they would feel anything.


1946 — 39th (8-3)
NC State cracked the AP Poll for this first time, reaching as high as 12th during a 4-0 start, before promptly dropping a game the next week to Virginia Tech. The Pack finished the year at No. 18 despite losing big to Oklahoma in the Gator Bowl. Because it was a good try and they looked sharp!


1957 — 51st (7-1-2)
Man, you wanna talk about a bad decade, this here was a bad decade. State had only one other winning season in that span, and no other teams that so much as cracked the SP+ top 85. Whew. It’s a good thing none of us were alive for those years. Can you imagine what the message boards looked like?


1967 — 13th (9-2)
This is the earliest best-of-the-decade team anybody could guess, I’d imagine. The white shoes defense. A Wolfpack group that reached No. 3 in the AP Poll—in November! Can’t even imagine what that would be like.


1972 — 30th (8-3-1)
Lou Holtz’s first team in Raleigh was his best. The year prior to his arrival, State was 122nd in SP+. The year after he left, 97th. The man could coach, there is no doubt about that. NC State finished in the AP top 20 in each of his first three seasons.


1988 — 29th (8-3-1)
Dick Sheridan was starting to cook at this point, and ‘88 marked the start of five straight winning seasons under his direction. This team smacked UNC, 48-3, and also tied Duke 43-43, in what must have been an incredible game to witness.


1992 — 15th (9-3-1)
Sheridan’s best team was also his last, and we can only guess what might have been if he’d stuck around. The Pack entered the AP Poll after a Week 1 win over Iowa and never left it, though the season came to a dreary end in a Gator Bowl loss to Florida. It was the second straight year State could have reached 10 wins with a bowl victory but fell short.


2002 — 12th (11-2)
NC State got back into the SP+ top 15 and finally reached the double-figure win plateau, and hey, it only took a decade. This was the most balanced team Chuck Amato had during his tenure and easily his best, though Philip Rivers would somehow level up about three times between this season and the next.


2010 — 27th (9-4)
Tom O’Brien’s tenure culminated in this team, which was good enough to play for the ACC title and very nearly did, before not doing that. They’re always not doing that, why are they always not doing that? Just play for an ACC title already! Sheesh.


2021 — 21st (9-3)
We’re off to a pretty good start to this decade, I’d say. Could have been better. COULDN’T IT, UCLA?