UNC Football early opponent preview: NC State Wolfpack

Keeping It Heel takes a look at each of the UNC Tar Heels football opponents in reverse order. This week we take a look at NC State.

Last season I started a tradition.

Taking from an interview I read from Kirby Smart, I looked at each team the Tar Heels were going to play last season in reverse order.

Smart said it was something they did at Alabama and I still feel if it was good enough for Nick Saban, it is good enough for the KIH Rankings Guru.

Well, guess what?

There are only 12 weeks left until the start of the college football season.

So with 12 games on the Tar Heels schedule, let’s get with the team UNC has finished the season against now for the past three seasons.

12

NC State Wolfpack (7-6)

Last season North Carolina was coming off a game in which they slaughtered the Citadel at home.

Meanwhile, NC State was still one win short of being bowl eligible and still looking for their first signature win of the season.

The result was the divergence of two teams.

State won and went on to crush Vanderbilt in their bowl game. UNC lost and went on to get beat in their bowl game against Stanford.

With the game moving back to Raleigh, will the road team continue its recent streak of wins?

Head Coach: Dave Doeren. Career Record 48-30 (25-26 at NC State). This will be his fifth season at NC State which is his second head coaching stop. Doeren once led Northern Illinois to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl bid before leaving for NC State.

If not for the win against UNC and the subsequent win against the Commodores, Doeren may have been looking for work this off-season, much like his basketball counterpart, Mark Gottfried was.

Best Former Player: WR Torry Holt, Seven-Time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion, career 920 receptions for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns, holds 8 NFL records and is top ten all time in career receiving yards

Second Best Former Player: Philip Rivers, six-time Pro Bowler, has thrown for 45,833 yards and 314 touchdowns, has 101 career wins (22nd all-time) and holds four NFL records and 42 San Diego Chargers records.

If you are wondering where Russell Wilson is on this list, check the Wisconsin team preview.

Last Season: Went 7-6 (3-5 in ACC play). Finished fourth in the Atlantic Division. Season highlights include winning four of their first five games of the season against lesser competition, something that has become a tradition under Doeren.

They followed that up losing five of their next six, including a heartbreaking loss to Clemson, when they missed a 33-yard field goal in regulation that would’ve won the game.

State finished the season winning their last two games by a combined 69-28, which included the seven-point win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

This Season: Seven of their opponents finished last season with a winning record and eight made a bowl game.

Under Doeren, NC State is 3-23 in games against Power Five teams with a winning record. However, all three of those wins came last season.

State has what would seem to be a much harder nonconference slate, compared to the cupcake slate they normally play. A lot of their year will depend on their improvement as well as the state of other programs that may still be down.

A 5-7 record seems to be likely, especially if Notre Dame returns to its stature as a better than average team.

Best Current Player: DE Bradley Chubb. Last season, he had 55 total tackles. He also recorded 10.5 sacks and forced three fumbles. In the game against UNC, he had three tackles and half a sack.

Chubb’s play also caught the eye of both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. McShay has Chubb going 19th to the Lions in his way too early mock draft.

Meanwhile, Kiper has Chubb rated 18th on his way to early big board, third best overall among all draft-eligible defensive linemen.

Nov 25, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Matt Dayes (21) fights for a first down during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Match-up: Saturday, November 25th in Raleigh.

Prediction: This will be my third straight season picking this game. I am 1-1. The first time I picked a close game that UNC won in a blow out. Last year I picked a blow out that UNC lost by seven.

Final score: UNC 24, NC State 21.

Honestly there are so many questions regarding UNC that to know what this team will look like by the end of next season is hardly a given. With no idea who the quarterback will be nor whether the defense will have stepped up, anyone’s guess is as good as mine.

However, NC State has not exactly been the epitome of consistency either. With Matthew Dayes and his 1,000 yard seasons now in Cleveland with the Browns, there are a lot of questions there to.

So when push comes to shove, stick with the trend, pick the road team, and hope UNC fans haven’t already tuned out to basketball season by this game.