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Syracuse football 2017 opponent preview: NC State Wolfpack

SU’s last victory over the Pack was back in 2013.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in peak offseason for the Syracuse Orange. But that won’t stop us from talking about football as much as possible. For the next few months, we’ll be diving into each of SU’s 12 (very difficult) opponents and all you’ll need to know about them in advance of this fall. Despite the challenges of the schedule, we’re going to be positive wherever possible. Today’s team:

NC State Wolfpack

School: North Carolina State University

Mascot: Wolfpack

#BRAND Slogan: “Think and Do.”

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: "Wuf.” “Most of our STATEments are only on billboards.”

Recommended Blog: Backing the Pack

Conference: ACC

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-North Carolina State vs Vanderbilt Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Coach: Dave Doeren, 5th year. Doeren played tight end for Drake in the early 1990s, then jumped into high school coaching thereafter. A year later, he was back at his alma mater, where he coached on the defensive side of the ball from 1995-97. From Drake, he moved onto USC, then Montana and Kansas.

Starting in 2006, Doeren began an extended stay as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin -- a post he inhabited in some shape or form from 2006-2010. He went from there to Northern Illinois and his first head coaching job. In just two seasons with the Huskies, he went 23-4 with two MAC titles and an Orange Bowl berth. There’s a chance some of that had to do with Jordan Lynch instead, but... I digress.

Since he arrived in Raleigh back in 2013, the Wolfpack are 25-26 overall and just 9-23 in league play. Doeren actually lost his first 12 ACC games before pulling off a close win over Syracuse back in 2014. Still, NC State has had a losing conference record each season since Doeren arrived. That gets balanced out by the dregs they’ve scheduled in non-conference play (a smart move that’s afforded Doeren more time than he may have received otherwise).

2016 Record: (7-6) (3-5)

Recapping Last Season:

State started the year at 4-1, before a tough stretch derailed what may have been a promising year. Bad luck downed them against Clemson (an overtime loss), and then they fell in consecutive games to Louisville, Boston College and Florida State. An Eric Dungey-less Syracuse team helped them rebound a bit, and they actually ended the season on a pretty impressive two-game streak vs. North Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Offensively, the Wolfpack put in a better performance last season than the overall numbers may suggest. Quarterback Ryan Finley quietly threw for over 3,000 yards, along with 18 touchdowns. Matt Dayes ran for over 1,100 yards. They put up 41 points against a Vandy team that was allowing less than 24 per game going into that bowl matchup.

On the other side of the ball, NC State was quietly one of the country’s best units. The Pack defense allowed less than 23 points per game (and that factors in the 54-13 drubbing vs. the Cardinals), and was a top-25 total D. That said, they were actually top 10 vs. the run and top 15 against the pass. Oh, and NCSU also managed 37 sacks last year. That’s 21 more than Syracuse pulled off.

2017 Season Outlook:

After a Google search turned up over 701,000 results for “NC State sleeping giant,” it took less than 10 pages to find an article for each year dating back all the way to 2006. But the one we’ll focus on most is from 2017, which features some strong endorsements of the Wolfpack defense. ESPN’s David Hale notes in that post that State returns 11 senior starters and 21 seniors overall. But Bill Connelly tells us that the returning production to worry about is confined primarily to the offensive side of things.

NC State brings back 58 percent of defensive production, which fails to excite. However, the Pack defensive line isn’t weighted in that calculation. Seniors Bradley Chubb and Kentavious Street should terrify on the edges, while B.J. Hill and Justin Jones are among the country’s best run stoppers inside. The secondary replaces a bit, but the front four’s experience and production should help NC State balance that out.

Offensively, Finley is back and that means another year of the Wolfpack moving the ball well through the air. If that wasn’t enough, they return the top four receivers from last year’s roster, including H-back Jaylen Samuels. Samuels is a major weapon in the rushing and passing game, and could be a key to State speeding things up a bit this season. Doeren’s team ran just under 73 players per game in 2016. That should increase this year as offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz continues to implement his up-tempo system (he’s a Boise State and Arkansas State product).

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 30

Location: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

Odds of Orange Victory: 30 percent

Very Early Outlook:

NC State has yet to face Dungey-led Orange football team, which should encourage Syracuse at least a little. Still, Doeren returns what should be a scary D-line and an offense that will step up its tempo to look at least something like the SU’s. That could take away a bit of the style advantage Syracuse brings into some of its games. Plus, the Orange will be coming off a road game at LSU. If SU gets manhandled by a more physical Tigers team, it could mean a very tough turnaround for us. I hate to play into the narrative that the Wolfpack are a whole lot better than SU, but... they’ll look like it in late September. State wins by a touchdown or so.