As my regular readers are aware, we’ve been previewing all 12 of NC State football’s upcoming opponents for the 2012 season. The one thing you’ll notice missing from these previews is any final conclusion regarding whether we are likely to win or lose. Typically whenever a news outlet, blog, or message board is making pre-season predictions, it’s either and exercise in talking out of your ass or just having a little bit of fun playing “what if” during the off-season. I’m not sure which one applies in this particular situation, but I wanted to condense all of the pre-season football previews into a sort of “best-case/worst-case” scenario for the 2012 season.
Expectations vs What Will Probably Happen
It’s important to keep in mind that most (all) of these pre-season predictions are shrouded in a series of assumptions. While someone might “expect” to win a game give the information they have pre-season, they may understand that certain things are likely to happen that will affect the outcome of the season as the year progresses. In this case, I found NC State football to be “expected” to go 9-3 in the regular season with loses to Clemson, Florida State, and UVa (yes, UVa… see explanation below). In reality, I think that one of either Clemson or Florida State (probably Florida State or Virginia) are likely to be victories and we will probably lose a game against someone like Wake Forest. Either way, this is probably a good “skin-deep” look at our opponents and how we can expect to do in 2012.
Here’s the million dollar question: in an ACC with 12 regular-season games and 30 bowl games, is 8-9 wins a season and a bowl game sufficient to keep Wolfpack fans satisfied?
NC State has a better coaching staff than Tennessee, a better offense than Tennessee, and is coming off a better season that Tennessee. What the Vols may have going for them is a set of massive defensive recruits and strategies. Dooley isn’t a popular man in Neyland Stadium and unless something tremendous has changed on offense, NC State may run away with their season opener.
The Huskies found themselves in a position where they didn’t have a set quarterback going into their spring game and were young up-front on offense. Defensively, they were solid in 2011 and despite several injuries they play the part of a defense-heavy team, holding their opponents to less than 3 yards per carry and earning 18 interceptions on the season. Defense does not a solid program, make. NC State’s experienced offense should be able to break the defense and our secondary should pick apart their inexperienced quarterback. Despite it being an away game in cool New England, NC State should have an advantage.
South Alabama somehow got on NC State’s schedule and while I’m not sure who’s responsible for such a blunder, I am sure that NC State football edges South Alabama in every category. For this game, South Alabama may be praying for a win, but their practical goal is getting into the D-1A family and showing they can stay competitive. This shouldn’t be a problem for NC State coming off of road games in Georgia and Connecticut.
NC State will be coming off of a weak D-1A/D-1AA transitional match when it faces The Citadel. While Citadel’s running games has proven effective against quality opponents like South Carolina, their complete lack of a passing game and mid-major defense won’t be enough to counter a seasoned Wolfpack. The only concern may be that Citadel uses it’s affinity for rushing to take advantage of our weak linebacker position. Still, NC State should come out on top of this contest.
The “U” may have a new quarterback, but he’s far from inexperienced. They also return 3 of their top running backs and several receivers from last season. Unfortunately, Miami lacks a tough defense with the exception of a few long stand-outs like linebacker Ramon Buchanan. NC State’s defense will have it’s hands full with their offensive unit, but Glennon should have little trouble ripping through the Hurricane’s young and thin defense.
Experience, depth, and quality coaching are important, but at some point in time yanking in nationally noticed recruiting classes will pay-off. FSU doesn’t just have a good coach in Jimbo Fisher, they also have a cadre of outstanding position coaches and young talent that any program would want (besides O’Brien, of course). Overall, NC State has an edge on their coaching staff with strong position coaches and trainers all around, but too many things are falling in place for FSU. Maybe the Wolfpack get an upset, but if I’m a betting man, I don’t place my money on NC State in October.
Maryland was terrible last season and everyone in Raleigh will be praying they are terrible again. The Terps are looking to improve on a 2-10 season last year. They weren’t good in 2011 and they won’t be good in 2012, but that “not good” 2011 team beat Miami and almost beat NC State. “Expectations” can probably be for a win.
Despite Carolina’s NCAA troubles and mediocre performance in the past, Larry Fedora is a good coach and he happens to run a type that takes advantage of coaches who can not make quick adjustments. UNC still has talented recruits and Fedora looks like he is employing them in a way that could give NC State trouble. Carolina’s defense was mediocre last season, but they are being employed in a way that specifically denies the pass (5 DBs). If they are successful, this could be a not-so-unexpected upset in favor of the Tar Heels. UNC’s success will depend on their secondary’s execution of this unconventional schema. For now, it looks like NC State has the experience, the depth, and the execution. At the end of the day, superior execution should win-out.
Virginia is coming off a successful 8-4 regular season record with a bowl game loss to Auburn. The Cavs are sporting a maturing quarterback and a successful ground-and-pound offense. Coach London is doing a lot to rebuild the Wahoos and has set the bar high for himself going into 2012. Due to the emphasis on the ground game and NC State’s current lack at the linebacker position, the Wolfpack will be hoping for the Cavaliers to continue their problems from 2011 in their secondary, leaving the center-field open. This game is primed to be a classic “WTF” game, so that’s how I’m marking it.
Coach Grobe has been averaging mediocre over the last 11 seasons at Wake Forest and combine their loss of talent on offensive with their abysmal defense and they aren’t looking to be much better this season. In 2011, they managed a 5-3 ACC record, better than NC State’s, but were only 6-7 overall. Expect a dip in already poor performance from Wake Forest in 2012. NC State shouldn’t lose this game.
Clemson will be looking to avenge their national humiliation suffered at the hands of West Virginia and well remember the beating NC State put on them in 2011. Their offense outpaces NC State in every category and returns 7 starters. Their defense is beatable, particularly their secondary, which may give NC State some breathing room, but it’s going to take near-flawless execution to beat the Tigers come November. I’m setting “expectations” at a loss.
Last season, BC posted it’s first losing season since 1998. Coach Spaziani is raising a program that is proficient at the run and effective all around the defensive side of the field, but can’t post enough points to be effective. Finishing just 4-8 (3-5) last season, Boston College will be looking to upset a top 25 team and make any bowl game they can. NC State should be able to handle an Eagles team in need of a rebuild.