Sports Illustrated released their preseason Top 20, but followed it up with a list of 5 schools not listed that could be contenders. NC State was one of the five schools, and here is what they had to say about the Pack:
The Wolfpack wouldn’t be flying this far under the national radar had they won one of two close games last season. The first was a 24–17 overtime loss at eventual national champion Clemson in October in which NC State kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation. The second was a four-point home defeat to Florida State in November wherein the Wolfpack led deep into the fourth quarter, only for Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois to hit NFL-bound wideout Travis Rudolph for a 19-yard touchdown with just over three minutes remaining one play after nearly throwing a potentially game-sealing interception.
NC State takes just one of those close decisions, and it heads into this season as the clearest threat to shake up the ACC’s duopoly. Instead, the Wolfpack have been reduced to scrapping for “Others receiving votes” love, and Dave Doeren is showing up on coaching hot seat lists. Doeren needs to offer evidence of progress in 2017; the Wolfpack have posted a 25–26 record during his four years in Raleigh, and they haven’t notched anything that remotely qualifies as a signature win. That drought ought to end this year, as NC State hosts both Clemson and Louisville, our No. 7 and No. 14 teams, respectively.
But looking beyond their potential to wreak havoc in the upper reaches of the division standings, the Wolfpack should be able to handle business against the ACC’s middle class without much fuss. Their defensive line is big and ferocious, and it’ll stop opposing running games in their tracks while stud end Bradley Chubb causes problems off the edge.
NC State is experienced on the other side of the the trenches, where second-team all-conference guard Tony Adams returns, and offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz will have two fun playmakers (Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines) and a returning starter at quarterback (Ryan Finley) to work with. If NC State can turn even one of 2016’s close losses into a W and avoid a head-scratching toe stub on the order of its 21–14 home loss to Boston College, it’s hard to imagine 2017 not being Doeren’s most fruitful campaign in Raleigh to date. (SI)