RALEIGH — Mike Glennon knows how he wants N.C. States football season to end and how it needs to begin.
The Wolfpack faces Tennessee on Friday night in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta to open the most anticipated season of sixth-year coach Tom OBriens tenure.
The ACC title, the schools first since 1979, is the teams primary goal, so says the senior quarterback and his coach. Also on the list: breaking the 10-win barrier, which in 120 seasons of Wolfpack football has been done once (11 wins in 2002).
"Theres really not a team on our schedule we feel like we cant beat," Glennon said. "If we play good, every game, I dont see why we cant accomplish our goals."
Glennon, who threw for 3,054 yards and 31 touchdowns in his first year as the starter, put an emphasis on the word "every" because consistency has been a problem for the Wolfpack. N.C. State was as predictable as a Plinko chip in an 8-5 season.
For every zig the big wins over Clemson and North Carolina there was a zag uninspired losses to Florida State or Boston College.
Then both versions of N.C. State, the good and the bad, showed up in the regular-season finale, a 56-41 comeback win over Maryland, which sent the Wolfpack to the Belk Bowl, where it beat Louisville.
For a man whose coaching career has been built on organization and a militaristic discipline, the inconsistencies particularly vex OBrien, 33-30 in five seasons at State.
"You cant ride the roller coaster and be so high one week and so low the next," OBrien said.
The Pack has posted back-to-back bowl victories and won a combined 17 games in the past two seasons. Only three times in N.C. States history, which dates back to 1892, has the program won more games in consecutive years.
Still, theres a sense among the veteran players, and an anxious fan base, that theres more to be had.
The 2010 team lost at Maryland in the final week of the regular season with a trip to the ACC title game on the line.
Last years team stumbled to a 2-3 start, including an embarrassing 44-14 loss at Cincinnati, before it made a late bowl push.
Injuries, notably on the defensive front, contributed to some of the inconsistency last season. But the mental hurdles, particularly the ability to duplicate the effort from home games for road games, proved to be more problematic last season.
"(Consistency) is harder than it sounds," senior center Cam Wentz said. "Its not because guys arent taking it seriously, its just human nature. Hopefully, as a year older, well be able to handle the emotional swings better."
Consistency has been more elusive on the road for the Pack, which must improve its play away from home to reach any of its preseason goals. State went 6-1 at Carter-Finley Stadium last season, and has an 11-2 home mark the past two seasons, compared to a 1-4 road record in 11.
Its not a coincidence the marquee wins over Clemson and UNC were at home, and the emotionally-flat losses to FSU and BC on the road. OBriens Wolfpack teams are 6-14 in ACC road games, 0-13 against Atlantic Division opponents on the road.
There has been concerted effort by the veteran players since the spring to be more consistent in practice. Do it in practice and youll do it in the game, junior cornerback David Amerson said.
"We have to have the right mindset," said Amerson, who led the country with 13 interceptions last season. "The games we did lose, we came out lackadaisical and not really focused. We need to stay focused game in and game out."
OBrien has been confident since the spring that this team would be his "deepest" and most "experienced." Whether its his best might depend on how the team can break the old, up-and-down habits in the new season.
"Those are all questions that have to get answered as we go along," OBrien said.
And the answers start Friday night with Tennessee.