NC State surprised some people last season as the Wolfpack finished with a 9-4 record and second in the ACC Atlantic Division with a 6-2 mark. With quarterback Ryan Finley returning, Dave Doeren's team is hoping to finish near the top of the Atlantic once again.
But NC State will have a few players to replace especially on the defensive side of the ball. What could help is the Wolfpack will play their first three games of the season at home.
In total, NC State has seven home games with road games against Clemson, Syracuse, Louisville and North Carolina. So how will the Wolfpack perform this season? Athlon asked its editors and college football contributors to share their win/loss projection for NC State in 2018.
NC State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
NC State’s nine victories in 2017 was its highest victory total under coach Dave Doeren and the program’s best since ’10. Doeren has a few significant voids to fill in the trenches – namely standout end Bradley Chubb and two All-ACC offensive linemen – but there’s enough returning talent to push for eight or nine victories once again. The biggest reason for optimism is quarterback Ryan Finley. After throwing for 3,518 yards last fall, Finley could take that total even higher in ’18, especially with a loaded group of receivers on the outside. In addition to restocking the trenches, NC State has to replace standout running back Nyheim Hines and all-purpose threat Jaylen Samuels. A schedule featuring five home contests over the first six matchups allows for a quick start. However, the second half of the slate features road trips to Clemson, Syracuse, North Carolina and Louisville. NC State loses to Clemson, Florida State and at Syracuse and stumbles once in an upset (Boston College, Louisville or North Carolina) to finish 8-4.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
NC State will be tested twice in September by teams from West Virginia — first when the Mountaineers visit Raleigh in Week 3 and then on the trip to Marshall the next week. The Pack could win both, lose both or split (going out on a limb, I know); the guess here is that they win them both. In league play, State catches a break by not playing Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pitt or Duke — the top five teams (according to our picks at Athlon Sports) in the Coastal Division. I have NC State going 5–3 in the league, with losses to Clemson and Florida State (no great surprise) and an upset defeat at Syracuse.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
The Wolfpack will miss guys like Jaylen Samuels and Bradley Chubb but they've got a pretty solid team for 2018 that should be able to win more than a few shootouts to lead the ACC middle class. Ryan Finley and Kelvin Harmon is one of the best offensive combos in the country and both seem primed for big seasons. I'm not sold on the rebuilding defense being good enough to make a run at the division but they'll have an outside chance at double-digit wins if the offense remains as potent as it should be.
Antwan Staley (@antwanstaley)
With NC State's favorable schedule, the Wolfpack indeed could finish in second place in the Atlantic once again. Especially considering they have the best quarterback in the conference in Finley. The Wolfpack has other playmakers such as Kelvin Harmon, who is Finley's favorite target. They also have junior Jakobi Meyers, who posted 63 receptions for 727 yards and five touchdowns.
The most significant questions are on defense where NC State will need to replace eight starters, including defensive end Bradley Chubb, the 2017 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Seniors Darian Roseboro and Germaine Pratt both return so that should help an otherwise young defense. The three toughest games on schedule are against West Virginia, Clemson and Florida State, but two of those are at home. It is possible NC State could finish with as many as 10 wins.