Overview: N.C. State enters a new era under new head coach Dave Doeren. The young offensive-minded Doeren posted a 23-4 in his two years at Northern Illinois after successful stints as an offensive coordinator at Kansas and Wisconsin. N.C. State won their last ACC Championship in 1979 and has compiled just one 10-win season in the program's lengthy history, so elevating N.C. State to the success level of his previous stop will present a challenge. In 2012, the Wolfpack went 7-6 in Tom O'Brien's final year at the helm with the highlight coming in a stunning upset over Florida State in Carter-Finley Stadium on Oct. 6. The 2012 season ultimately ended with a 38-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl, yet the new-look Wolfpack is set on making strides to challenge for the top spot in the Atlantic Division this fall.
Offensively, the Wolfpack will make the transition from a traditional pro-style approach to Doeren's spread attack. N.C. State ranked 48th nationally in total offense a season ago, averaging 421 yards per game. The passing offense, led by Mike Glennon, ranked 18th in the country (310 ypg) while the ground game struggled to produce consistently, ranking 108th nationally (111 ypg). With Glennon now in the professional ranks, the major question mark surrounding the team is who will take over the quarterback position. Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas seems to be the frontrunner for the job, but the position will be determined in training camp.
Whoever ends up earning the job will be rewarded with a talented receiving corps led by junior Bryan Underwood and senior Quinton Payton. Underwood hauled in 44 receptions for 620 yards and 10 touchdowns last year while Payton led the team in receptions with 51 for 798 yards and two touchdowns. The rushing offense will rely on true sophomore Shadrach Thornton to build upon his rookie campaign despite only starting four games. The Hinesville, Ga. native led the Wolfpack with 694 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in four games.
The 2012 N.C. State defense seemed to present quite a threat to opposing offenses on paper due to the talent-infused secondary yet the expectations didn't translate onto the field. The Wolfpack defense ranked 68th in total defense (404 ypg), thanks in large part to an inadequate pass defense (249 ypg, 83rd nationally). The 2013 unit will provide the necessary pressure in the trenches with the return of defensive ends Art Norman and Darryl Cato-Bishop alongside tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal. The Wolfpack foursome accounted for 18.5 sacks a season ago and will look to only improve on that mark this fall.
Historic Context: North Carolina and N.C. State have competed a grand total of 93 times throughout their rivalry on the college football field. The Tar Heels own a 64-32-6 record in the series. N.C. State rode a five-game series win streak into Kenan Stadium on Oct. 27, 2012, but exited with a loss following Gio Bernard's game-winning punt return for touchdown in the closing seconds.
"At NC State, we lost more starters and more letterman than any other team in the ACC last year. This is a lot different than what I inherited at NIU from that standpoint. We're going to be a young team this year." – Doeren
"I think any program that's a seven or eight-win program and wants to have more wins, needs to learn how to be better on the road. I think that's the difference from maybe a team that qualifies for a bowl and a team that plays in a January bowl game. It's the teams that learn how to win on the road and that's kind of where we are. We have to get over that hump and that's difficult." – Doeren
Notable Matchups: N.C. State opens up the season in a favorable fashion with four straight home games. The toughest contest out of the gate will come when Atlantic Division powerhouse Clemson travels to Raleigh on Sept. 14. The middle of the season may present some problems for the Wolfpack with five road games packed into a seven-week span, headlined by the revenge-filled faceoff at Florida State on Oct. 26. Following the trip to Tallahassee, Doeren's team will take on back-to-back Coastal Division teams with North Carolina at home and Duke on the road. All in all, the Wolfpack have eight homes on the schedule, which sets up nicely in the first year for a new staff and a team looking to replace a lot of significant contributors on both sides of the ball.