NC State adjusts future nonconference football schedules

jgiglio@newsobserver.comApril 28, 2014 

N.C. State, NC State, Wolfpack, ACC, football, Dave Doeren, Cent

Wolfpack fans were excited when their team beat Central Michigan 48-14 on Sept. 28 at Carter-Finley to improve to 3-1, but that was the Wolfpack’s last win of the year, and State finished 3-5 at home.

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  • Lack of appeal

    N.C. State added two games with Sun Belt member Troy in part to make up for being dropped by SEC power LSU. The Wolfpack’s nonconference opponents for the next four seasons:

    2014: Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, at South Florida, Presbyterian

    2015: Troy, at Old Dominion, at South Alabama

    2016: Notre Dame, at East Carolina

    2017: at Troy, at Notre Dame

N.C. State picked up two future games with Sun Belt foe Troy after getting dropped by SEC power Louisiana State.

It’s the latest turn in the Wolfpack’s future scheduling that has some fans groaning about name-brand appeal, but it’s the reality of the scheduling business.

N.C. State will open the 2015 season in Raleigh with Troy and visit the Trojans in southeastern Alabama in 2017. The Wolfpack had been set to play at LSU in ’17 with the Tigers coming to Raleigh in ’20.

LSU recently paid $100,000 to get out of the series, replacing N.C. State with fellow ACC member Syracuse, leaving the Wolfpack with a hole to fill.

N.C. State will play three Sun Belt teams over the next four years, including a home game with Georgia Southern to open the 2014 season. The Wolfpack is also scheduled to play at South Alabama in 2015.

A marquee matchup with LSU would have quelled some of the complaints from the Wolfpack fan base about the upcoming nonconference schedules. Now, two games with Notre Dame in connection with the Fighting Irish’s agreement with the ACC, stand as the notable future highlights.

With the strength of N.C. State’s ACC schedule and the current rebuilding mode of the program — coming off a 3-9 finish under Dave Doeren in 2013 — the Wolfpack needs to be smart with its schedule outside the ACC, athletic director Debbie Yow said.

Yow, who inherited the South Florida and Presbyterian games on the 2014 schedule and the trip to South Alabama in 2015 from former AD Lee Fowler, said she realizes there are valid complaints about the quality of the nonconference opponents.

This year’s home schedule in particular – with Georgia Southern and Old Dominion making the transition from the Football Championship Subdivision and no date with North Carolina or Duke – is unappealing.

“And I understand the complaints, in partial context,” Yow said, “but we have to give ourselves a chance to be competitive.”

Yow pointed out on the upcoming schedule the Wolfpack will play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville in a four-week span with no extra time off to prepare for any of those three games. The Clemson and Louisville games are on the road.

Florida State went 14-0 and won the national title last season and hasn’t lost an ACC game since a trip to Raleigh in 2012. Clemson finished 11-2 at No. 8 in the final AP poll after an Orange Bowl victory against Ohio State. The Tigers’ only two ACC losses in 2012 and ’13 were to FSU.

ACC newcomer Louisville went 12-1 last season and finished ranked No. 15. All three schools finished in the top 15 in 2012, as well. All three are in the Atlantic Division with N.C. State, which is why Yow has been less inclined to seek out a big game out of the league.

Football schedules can be complicated, and N.C. State has had its issues with locking in opponents. The school had a home-and-home with Pittsburgh on the books, and the two played in Raleigh in 2009, but then Pitt joined the ACC.

Yow bought out a return trip to Central Michigan for $350,000 to open a home slot on the 2014 schedule. In order to get seven home games in ’14, Yow added a home-and-home with ODU, so the Pack has to go to Norfolk, Va., in ’15.

N.C. State will still get a shot at Notre Dame, a full ACC member in all sports but football. The Fighting Irish will play four ACC teams this season, and five each year starting with the 2015 schedule. The Irish are supposed to play in Raleigh in 2016, and the Wolfpack is tentatively scheduled to go to South Bend, Ind., in ’17.

N.C. State also has three games with East Carolina on the books, but that series is about to hit a lull. The Pirates and Pack played six times from 2004 to 2013 but will play three times over the next nine seasons – 2016 (in Greenville), 2019 (Raleigh) and 2022 (Greenville).

The ACC coaches will meet next month to discuss the possibility of adding a ninth conference game to the schedule, which would add more appeal but would make the home-and-away split to the conference schedule uneven.

Any possible changes to the league format would not happen before the 2016 season.

Giglio: 919-829-8938; Twitter: @jwgiglio

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