I’ve been looking at this for a week now agonizing over how I see the 2010 NC State Football season playing out. I’ve always been the eternal optimist when it comes to NC State Football. Exhibit A – I thought there was no way we would win less than 8 games last year. I’ve been burned like that way too much over the past few years so this year I made myself look harder at everything.
A month ago I would have told you we’d be lucky to win 3 games. It’s not that I don’t think we have the talent, it’s more I don’t have much faith in this coaching staff and our schedule is absolutely brutal. Last year with 8 home games and an offense that averaged 30.3 ppg we only managed 5 wins. This year we only have 6 home games (TOB’s road record at State is 4-11 overall; 1-9 in games outside of NC), our ACC cross-division games are all tough, and none of the 3 BCS non-conference games are gimmes. I’ve warmed up a little from 3 wins, but unlike last year now I think everything would have to fall in place perfectly for us to win even 7 games. What a difference a year makes.
Anyway, my game by game predictions are below:
Western Carolina — TOB is 0-3 in season openers since arriving at State, but that streak should end this year. We are 5-0 all time against WCU with an average score of 48-11. This year should be a lot of the same. Prediction: Win
@ Central Florida — TOB is also 0-3 in road season openers since arriving at State and that streak will be a lot tougher to end than everybody thinks. UCF was 8-5 last year including a St. Petersburg Bowl loss to Rutgers. They return 15 starters (including stud DE Bruce Miller the reigning C-USA Defensive POY) and are expected to contend for the C-USA title. This game will tell us a lot about the season. If we can get to 2-0 we could be looking at a bowl game, but if we lose it could be another sub .500 season for TOB in year #4. Prediction: Loss
Cincinnati — The reigning Big East champs will not be able to match their 12-1 record from last year after losing HC Brian Kelly, QB Tony Pike, and WR Mardy Gilyard. They do return a lot of firepower on offense in QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead, and WR Armon Binns so they can still contend in a wide open Big East race. It’s a short week for both teams and under the Prime Time lights so it’ll be a game where both teams hope to make a statement. TOB’s career ESPN Thursday Night record is 1-7, but I’m bucking the trend here. Prediction: Win
@ Georgia Tech — We are 3-10 all time in Atlanta (1-7 in last 8 dating back to 1990). Everybody knows how prolific Tech’s running attack has been since Paul Johnson took over. With reigning 1st Team All-ACC QB Joshua Nesbitt returning to run the triple-option offense it will be just as strong as last year. This one will probably be a blow out. Prediction: Loss
Virginia Tech — Frank Beamer is at the top of the class when it comes to ACC coaches. His Hokies have won 10 or more games 11 of the past 15 years (including the last 6 in a row). They’re ranked in the top 10 in both the AP (10) and USA Today (6) preseason polls and many consider them National Champion contenders. I think that’s crazy talk, but with QB Tyrod Taylor and RB Ryan Williams leading the way you never know. Last year’s game in Blacksburg was a blowout, but with only 4 returning starters on defense for the Hokies I think this one will be close. Prediction: Loss
Boston College — Under Chuck Amato we always had success against his former team (4-3 vs. FSU), but TOB has found it very tough sledding against BC with an 0-3 record and an average losing margin of 19.7 points. BC has one of the best O-lines in the ACC and with the return of LB Mark Herzlich could have one of the best LB corps in the NCAA. Add to that RB Montel Harris (264 yds and 5 TDs last year against us) and this should be another blowout, but I have a gut feeling on this one. Prediction: Win
@ East Carolina — Only 8 returning starters (2 on defense) so this is a very inexperienced Pirates team in Ruffin McNeill’s first year. McNeill plans to install the same spread pass happy offense from Texas Tech and the Pirates do return their top two WRs in Dwayne Harris and Darryl Freeney so if they can find a competent QB they should be able to score some points. This is a game where the Pack is the better team and must take care of business. Prediction: Win
Florida State — Last year’s game was fun to watch with the teams combining for 87 points and 1093 total yards of offense. Jimbo Fisher takes over for the legendary Bobby Bowden so there is a little bit of uncertainty with the Noles. FSU is once again the media’s pick to win the ACC Atlantic Division. With Heisman hopeful QB Christian Ponder, one of the best O-lines in the country, and an improved defense you can see why the media loves them. This could be a replay of last year and if so TOB’s Thursday Night struggles will continue. Prediction: Loss
@ Clemson — The Tigers have absolutely dominated the Textile Bowl with 8 wins in the last 10 meetings. The reigning ACC Atlantic Champs lose All-World RB C.J. Spiller, but they are so athletic up and down the lineup I think they could surprise everybody and repeat. That is if Dabo Swinney can actually coach which is still up for debate in my opinion. Regardless I think he gets the best of TOB in Death Valley. Prediction: Loss
Wake Forest — After losing Riley Skinner, best QB in Wake history and a perennial thorn in the side of the Wolfpack, the Demon Deacons are switching their offense back to the option. This does not appear to be a very good team, but the option will give everybody fits and help Wake hang around in games they probably shouldn’t. Jim Grobe is a great coach, but this is a home game and we are the better team so this is a game that you absolutely cannot lose. Prediction: Win
@ North Carolina — Before the whole Agent Scandal I thought the Tarheels could contend for the ACC title. Please don’t shoot! At least I take some joy in helping to put the jinx on them. Anyway, until the NCAA investigation is complete it’s hard to project how this team will do, but I think the damage has been done. I now see this team being a huge bust which would be sweet music to Wolfpack Nation’s ears. All the upperclassmen who spurned the NFL Draft to return did so for two reasons … to make a BCS bowl and to beat NC State. That first dream will be over well before Halloween so when we make the drive over to Chapel Hill we will definitely get their full attention. TOB’s 3-0 honeymoon sadly comes to an end. Prediction: Loss
@ Maryland — The Terps are strong at RB, WR, LB, and Special Teams but pretty weak everywhere else. Last year we tried our hardest to give this game away but finally did prevail. The Terps have won 7 of the last 10 in this series. I think the Pack has the better team, but a possible bowl trip on the line and the Terps playing to send the Fridge out with a win in what could be his final game at Maryland doesn’t give me a good feeling. Prediction: Loss
So I said we could win as few as 3 and as many as 7 games. I admit I totally copped out by taking the middle and predicting a 5-7 overall record. I think it’ll be worse, but I just can’t bring myself to actually publish anything worse than that so the optimism is still there just not nearly as strong as it use to be. I hope TOB & Co. prove me wrong and make it to a bowl, but I just don’t see it happening this year with this schedule. Feel free to comment with your predictions and tell me how smart or stupid you think I am.