Notre Dame fans are well aware of the ill-timed contract extension for head football coaches. Dave Doeren went from 3-9 to 8-5 in his second season and was awarded with a $400,000 raise and 2-year extension. Since then, the Wolfpack have gone 14-13 and more importantly really struggled to make an impact in the ACC.
2016 Record: 7-6
2016 S&P Rank: 25
Offense Returning Production Rank: 17
Defense Returning Production Rank: 90
A big question for Doeren is if he’ll finally have a true breakthrough in his 5th season. After the 3-9 first season he’s moved up to just a game under .500 overall. However, he’s been swimming in the deep end with a 9-23 record in the ACC, going 3-5 in each of the last 3 seasons.
The Wokfpack were a not-terrible 41st in S&P two years ago and finished a respectable 25th in 2016, yet it amounted to no increase in wins. Doeren’s tenure is kind of feeling like Brian Kelly’s at Notre Dame a little bit, a team that should be better in the win-loss column compared to its advanced stats.
He does have two additional years on his contract after 2017 and to be fair NC State finished pretty strong last year winning 3 out of their last 4 including an upset over North Carolina and a blowout win over Vanderbilt.
If NC State starts to make noise in the ACC it’ll have to come from an improved offense. A ton of production is returning including the steady former Boise State transfer quarterback Ryan Finley who will look to build upon pretty decent numbers (3,055 yards, 60.4% accuracy, 18 TD, 8 INT, 7.6 YPA) across the board.
Running back Matthew Dayes leaves a big hole at running back after being selected in the 7th round of the NFL Draft. He wasn’t super productive (4.68 YPC, 10 TD) but had 200 more carries than the next closest ball carrier. The Wolfpack do like the emerging combo of Reggie Gallapsy and Nyheim Hines (gadget back spent a lot of time in the slot) to fill the void.
Getting some more explosiveness out of the run game (113th IsoPPP) will be key. All-ACC tight end Jaylen Samuels returns with their top receivers and a solid core on the offensive line. At worst, this should be a very solid offense with plenty of weapons.
NC State’s defense from last year was great stopping the run, pretty good stopping the pass, and one of the best in getting into the backfield, especially from the defensive line.
A pair of NFL picks, including 2nd rounder safety Josh Jones, as well as 2 more bodies are gone in the secondary so this unit has to be rebuilt during the off-season. Otherwise, a huge chunk of the front seven return from one of the best defenses in the country.
The Wolfpack defensive line in particular should be a hand full. The foursome of Bradley Chubb, Darian Roseboro, Kentavius Street, and Justin Jones combined for 49 tackles for loss last year. You can sense the frustration from NC State fans as the 11th ranked S&P+ defense was wasted on just 7 wins.
Summer Spread: Irish Favored by 1.5 Points
Notre Dame and NC State are getting roughly the same amount of love in Vegas, right around an over/under of 7.5 wins. With the game in South Bend I’ll give the Irish a slight home field advantage.
Buy or Sell: Wolfpack over 7.5 Wins
This team has all of the pieces to make a lot of noise. The schedule offers very little breathing room, though. NC State will have a neutral site opener versus South Carolina and then Florida State, Louisville, Clemson, Pitt, and North Carolina in addition to the Irish. Winning against the Gamecocks and sweeping the last three named teams would be a pretty great season, assuming no other hiccups.
I’ll take the over for a 8-4 season. It feels like they’re due for a win against Clemson which swings them over the 7.5 mark. The Wolfpack have lost their 5 against Clemson, as well as 12 out of their last 13.
Know a Player: WR Stephen Louis
A really low 3-star (No. 216 Composite WR) out of south Florida who was coming off surgery to both shoulders last year. He persevered and finished 3rd in the ACC with 19.37 yards per catch. At 6-2 and 215 pounds he’s a major downfield threat for any defense.
NC State signed a 3-deal with Adidas in 2012 for a measly $8 million. In 2015, the school announced a huge 6-year extension worth $38.7 million which put them well into the top third of highest paid programs.
Most Important Game: at Pitt
They missed Pitt last year and face the Panthers on the road after hosting Louisville and before a bye week. The Irish coming right after the bye week, too. This will be one of the middle-tier ACC games that could make the difference in Doerer continuing his employment in Raleigh.