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In the Atlantic Division there really isn’t anyone who legitimately has much of a chance to dethrone Clemson so the race is for who will be 2nd best and NC State has a chance to be that team. They have 17 starters returning from an 8-4 2020 team that includes most of their skill players on offense and a defense that at times played well.
Offense: There are 8 starters returning on this side of the ball including QB Devin Leary who is back after missing most of last season with a broken leg. Running backs Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person. Jr., combined for 14 touchdowns and more than 1400 yards last year and they return as well. The receiving core is solid and the offensive line returns 4 starters. The Wolfpack should be potent if Leary can stay healthy.
Defense: 9 starters are back on defense including All-ACC linebacker Payton Wilson led the league averaging 10.8 tackles per game in 2020. They must improve upfront as 4 different teams gained more than 250 yards on the ground and that doesn’t lead to a good defense. The secondary is solid and have experience as 4 starters are back there.
9/2. South Florida
9/11 at Mississippi St.
10/2 Louisiana Tech
The non-conference schedule is definitely reasonable for NC State and they have a chance to win all 4 games. The game at Starkville against Mississippi St. will be a key test and could determine if The Pack can crack double figures in wins. The other three games are must wins.
10/16 at Boston College
10/23 at Miami
11/6 at Florida State
11/13 at Wake Forest
11/26 North Carolina
The conference schedule is pretty tough as the Wolfpack have to play the top-2 contenders from the Coastal Division. Their 4 road games are the key to their season. They need to win at BC, at Florida St., and at Wake Forest and then take their chances at Miami. They have must-wins at home against Louisville and Syracuse and a 50/50 game against their rival North Carolina. The other home game is Clemson and that would be a stretch to say they would win that one.
Summary: It is reasonable to find 8 wins on the schedule and it’s not stupid to suggest they might win 10. But it is NC State and they don’t win all the games they should and there will be a couple of slip-ups along the way. They should be able to get to a nice bowl game and grab 2nd place in the Atlantic.
Projected Finish: 2nd in Atlantic Division
Overall Record: 8-4
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