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How good can NC State be? Luke DeCock analyzes the upcoming football season.

Wolfpack has high goals for 2018 football season

The NC State Wolfpack's 2018 football season is getting underway. The first game is Sept. 1 at Carter-Finley Stadium against James Madison.
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The NC State Wolfpack's 2018 football season is getting underway. The first game is Sept. 1 at Carter-Finley Stadium against James Madison.

Prepare to see the graphic in the first 45 seconds of every N.C. State telecast, the one that shows how the Wolfpack’s entire defensive line was drafted in the first 128 picks, not to mention three other draftees in do-everything backs Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines and tackle Will Richardson.

There’s going to be as much chatter about those seven players as there will be about Ryan Finley or his trio of outstanding receivers, one of whom — Kelvin Harmon — has the talent and tools to join Finley in the first round next spring.

N.C. State is that classic team where you get so caught up in who the Wolfpack lost, you forget who it still has. And what it has is a lot.

The News & Observer's Joe Giglio previews and predicts the Wolfpack's games in the second half of the 2018 college football season, including matchups with Clemson, Florida State and UNC.

Even without Hines and Samuels, the Wolfpack has a full array of offensive weapons at the disposal of one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country. Harmon, Jakobi Meyers and Stephen Louis give N.C. State skill and size at receiver, and Reggie Gallaspy has lead-back talent if he can stay healthy. Combined with a reasonably veteran offensive line, Finley has everything he needs to put on a show for NFL scouts.

The defense may be a bit of a work in progress given the turnover on the defensive line, so N.C. State’s recent recruiting on that side of the ball will be put to the test, but the arrival of former Duke head coach Ted Roof on the defensive staff will help smooth over some of the gaps.

The News and Observer's Joe Giglio irritates and placates NC State fans while previewing the Wolfpack's opening game against James Madison University.

N.C. State had a good season last year, even if a great season was within reach. The miscues against South Carolina and Wake Forest and the awkward final drive against Clemson (the less said about Notre Dame, the better) left the Wolfpack short of where it could, and probably should have been, leaving its biggest win for NFL draft day.

Expectations are lower, which should play into the Wolfpack’s hands. If last season felt a little wanting given the talent on hand, a repeat performance would be substantially more gratifying — and is well within reach. If last season wasn’t the breakthrough it could have been, this season is still a chance to build on that foundation.

The prediction: 9-3, if the Wolfpack can defend Carter-Finley against West Virginia in Week 3. The rest of the home schedule is eminently winnable, assuming some Year One issues with the coaching change at Florida State.

Wins: James Madison, Georgia State, West Virginia, at Marshall, Virginia, Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest, at North Carolina.

Losses: at Clemson, at Syracuse, at Louisville.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock
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