N.C. State recently got top billing on Fox Sports’ ranking of the softest nonconference schedules for Power 5 teams.
N.C. State will play relatively new Football Bowl Subdivision teams South Alabama and Old Dominion plus a Sun Belt team (Troy) and the usual one game against a Football Championship Subdivision team (Eastern Kentucky).
There are multiple reasons for the Wolfpack’s nonconference schedule, and coach Dave Doeren is not in the apology business for them.
“Building the team is the most important thing, not making Fox happy or making anyone happy,” Doeren said.
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The strength of the teams on N.C. State’s ACC schedule and the youth of the program were primary factors in setting up the schedule. There also were games and problems getting games that Doeren inherited when he was hired before the 2013 season.
Both Florida State and Clemson reside on the Atlantic Division side of the ACC with N.C. State. Both have gone 20-1 against the rest of the ACC since the start of the 2012 season. Coaches or fans on the Coastal side can talk about power going in “cycles,” but two ACC teams have never been concurrently dominant as FSU and Clemson are now.
“I still think we play in the toughest side of a conference of anybody right now,” Doeren said. “That’s part of what goes into setting up the other part of our schedule.”
Doeren also cited what is becoming one of his pet stats in the decision to face Old Dominion, Troy and Eastern Kentucky – first- or second-year players make up 70 percent of the Wolfpack roster.
Since the ultimate goal is to make a bowl – and realistically there are going to be losses in the ACC – taking the path of most resistance out of the league doesn’t make a ton of sense in terms helping young players develop.
“When you’re playing with 70 percent of your team as young as we are, I think we did the right thing,” Doeren said.
And any time you’re dealing with football schedules, there are factors you don’t control. N.C. State had SEC powerhouse Louisiana State lined up for a home-and-home, but LSU bought out the contract and decided to play Syracuse instead.
A home-and-home with Troy (N.C. State will travel there next year) was picked up to replace part of the hole left by LSU.
The Old Dominion addition was a late scramble by Doeren and N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow. The ACC originally planned on playing nine conference games in 2014. When the league decided to stay at eight games, N.C. State needed a fourth nonconference game and needed to play the game at home (it had only five home games on the slate).
Old Dominion agreed to come to Raleigh in 2014 but only if it was a home-and-home contract. N.C. State beat the Rams 46-34 last year and will play in Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 19 to complete the contract.
The South Alabama trip Sept. 26 is a payoff of a two-for-one contract that was shrewdly set up by former South Alabama AD Joe Gottfried, the father of N.C. State men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried.
N.C. State beat the Jaguars in Raleigh in 2011 (35-13) and ’12 (31-7).
Going forward, Doeren pointed out that N.C. State will play Notre Dame (2016, ’17), East Carolina (’16, ’19, ’22), West Virginia (’18 and ’19) and Mississippi State (’20, ’21). He doesn’t expect to be on the Fox Sports’ list.
“After this year, the conversation is going to end because of who we have going forward,” Doeren said. “So this is the last time they’ll get to say that.”