Sooooo... this is crunch time. You didn't believe it when everyone said we'd be here, yet here we are anyway. Lucky for us, NC State is sort of in the same boat. Or maybe that's not lucky for us? Yeah, probably not... both of these teams are facing some dire straits, but all that aside, there's a game to play on Saturday and we should go ahead and learn some things about our opponent. Let's get to it:
Below, Steven Muma (who you should follow on Twitter) from SB Nation's NC State blog, Backing the Pack, stops by to chat all about Wolfpack football. On top of his responses here, you can also check out ours over there to tell NC State fans everything they need to know about Syracuse.
As an outsider, NC State has seemed like a different team each week of this season. How do State fans view the Wolfpack after eight games?
Feeling better about this team than last year's team, which is a start. The Wolfpack is much better at quarterback with Jacoby Brissett -- he probably has exceeded expectations, and in doing so made the team considerably more watchable. The defense remains terrible, but we take what we can get.
I wouldn't suggest that there is an overwhelming sense of optimism after losing four straight (even if three of them were expected losses), but there is still hope, whereas at this point last season I think it was more of a please-let-this-end vibe. NC State didn't manage more than 21 points in any conference game last year. It was unpleasant.
Any chance we see multiple quarterbacks for the Pack on Saturday? Obviously Brissett's done reasonably well, but the team has been losing with him lately.
No chance, unless Brissett gets injured. Unless you count a running back taking snaps out of the wildcat as a different quarterback.
All the guys who took a significant number of snaps under center in 2013 either graduated or transferred, leaving no depth or experience to speak of at the position. His backup is a former walkon who has managed to throw a pick-six this year despite really limited playing time, and the third-stringer is a true freshman who NC State is redshirting barring emergency. So there's really no viable secondary option to Brissett, certainly not a guy who would tempt the coaches to remove him if he's running cold.
If you could pinpoint NC State's biggest issue right now, what would it be?
I can only have one? So many things I could go with here. I think the play of the defensive line has probably been what's nagged at me the most all year. I thought State would get better production out of that group in 2014, but that hasn't been the case, or even close, really.
The pass rush is failing to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and in general the line isn't having much of a positive impact at the point of attack. This was a weakness in 2013 and State got run over a few times (the Syracuse game being one of those times), and it feels like the threat of being overwhelmed is always there.
Still sold on Dave Doeren as head coach, or have ACC struggles given way to some frustration?
Psssh, I hit the eject button on Doeren way before his first season was over. In related news I probably should not be tweeting during NC State football games.
Honestly though I'm not THAT dismissive of Doeren so early still in his career, but it is impossible not to feel some frustration at an 0-12 run through conference play. I realize he was dealt a crummy roster without a half-decent quarterback, and that the schedule this year was front-loaded.
Still there's this lingering ... I don't even know what to call it ... you know that sort of Kragthorpeian (Gergian?) sense of "nope, this ain't the guy" that hits really quickly every now and then? It's there. But also, I mean, winning a couple more games this year gets State to a bowl game which would be pretty damn good after last year. I think I've been irrational in how harshly I've started to judge Doeren under these circumstances.
So I don't know. There is no emoticon for what I'm feeling! and etc. Losing streaks do this stuff.
Who's one unheralded player that Syracuse fans (and players) should keep an eye on this Saturday?
I'll go with tight end David Grinnage, who caught a couple of touchdown passes against Louisville and seems to be gaining trust from Brissett. He's been responsible for some big plays this season, but he hasn't been targeted a ton. So while he's not likely to be out there piling up the receptions, he definitely could factor into a high-impact play or three.
So what do you think? Does NC State win this one on the road, or can Syracuse pull one out against you guys?
Guys, listen. We need this one real bad. REAL BAD, man. It's a desert over here except instead of sand it's all sadness. A Sahara of tears! The occasional first-quarter-against-FSU oasis keeps us from going entirely nuts, but I'm not sure how much longer that's going to make a difference.
If y'all could do us a solid and just let us have this one game, we would super duper be your best friends.
If you can't do that, then allow me to go ahead and congratulate Syracuse on the victory.
Thanks again for taking the time out for these, Steven! And again, everyone: Be sure to follow Steven on Twitter and head over to Backing the Pack for all of the NC State information you could ask for.