N.C. State was criticized for its poor nonconference schedule last year. The Wolfpack and football coach Dave Doeren won’t have to listen to any of those complaints this year.
N.C. State, 7-6 a year ago, gets Notre Dame and a trip to East Carolina outside the ACC. Throw in the crossover ACC games against what could be the two toughest teams in the Coastal Division, plus the annual dates with Atlantic Division heavyweights Clemson and Florida State and the Wolfpack has arguably the toughest schedule of any ACC team.
Mark your calendars
Sept. 10: at East Carolina
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Oct. 8: Notre Dame
Nov. 19: Miami
N.C. State has struggled with mobile quarterbacks. That makes the already formidable Notre Dame-Clemson-Louisville stretch even more unforgiving for the Wolfpack.
The three games in 13 days to close the season — at Syracuse, Miami, at UNC — will be a grind as well. That’s why every coach hates an an early open date (Sept. 24) on the schedule.
What to like
The kiddie pool is closed. After a super soft nonconference schedule in 2015, the only on-paper breathers for N.C. State this season are the opener against William & Mary and a home date with Old Dominion on Sept. 17.
It should be noted William & Mary beat ACC foe Virginia in 2009, so that’s not going to be a walkover, especially with N.C. State breaking in a new quarterback.
The Oct. 8 date with Notre Dame is the first regular-season meeting with the Fighting Irish, who went 10-3 a year ago. N.C. State’s only other matchup with the Golden Domers was a memorable one. A 28-6 win in the Gator Bowl was N.C. State’s school-record 11th win during the 2002 season.
What to dislike
“Dislike” is probably the wrong word for the home date with Miami, more like, “That’s the breaks” or “N.C. State Stuff.”
Miami, for the most part, has piddled around for the majority of its ACC existence. The Hurricanes haven’t finished a season in double-digit wins since their last in the Big East in 2003.
With the hiring of former Georgia coach Mark Richt and the best quarterback in the ACC not named Deshaun Watson (senior Brad Kaaya), Miami might be able to break out of its mediocrity and be “this year’s North Carolina.”
On the average, N.C. State and Miami meet once every eight years. This just so happens to be that year for the Wolfpack.
Clemson will likely open the season ranked No. 1 in the country. Florida State and Notre Dame will also likely be top 10 teams.
UNC, Louisville and Miami will probably open the season in the top 25.
That’s potentially six games against ranked teams. You can throw a bottle in Mississippi or Alabama and find an SEC fan who disagrees, but there might not be another team in the country with a schedule tougher than N.C. State’s.
When you juxtapose that with the 2015 schedule, that’s almost alarming. But schedules shape the perception of a season, not the reality.
They can also temper expectations. With last year’s schedule, N.C. State’s 7-win finish was disappointing. If N.C. State wins 7 games, or more, against this slate, Doeren might be the ACC coach of the year.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
3 William & Mary
10 at East Carolina
17 Old Dominion
1 Wake Forest
8 Notre Dame
15 at Clemson
22 at Louisville
29 Boston College
5 Florida State
12 at Syracuse
25 at UNC