For a team that’s riding a seven-game win streak, 5-0 for the first time since 2002 and ranked No. 20 in the latest Associated Press Poll, there hasn’t been a lot of buzz surrounding North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack been flying under the radar and are the lowest-ranked undefeated Power 5 team. It doesn’t help that the five teams NC State defeated this season have a combined record of 8-12, with Boston College possessing the lone winning record. However, a showdown this weekend with undefeated rival Clemson in the Textile Bowl and NC State will definitely have the nation’s attention. The winner of Saturday’s contest will take the lead in the Atlantic Division and control their own destiny. The No. 3 Tigers may need this game as much as the Wolfpack because NC State will likely be the last ranked team Clemson will see for the remainder of the regular season.
The Wolfpack have posted seven winning seasons in the past eight years. During that span NC State compiled a record of 58-45, with five bowl wins and two AP Top-25 finishes. That’s not a bad feat for a program that has come accustomed to finishing in the bottom half of recruiting in the ACC.
Head Coach Dave Doren has done a magnificent job turning the program around, after leading the Wolfpack to four-straight winning seasons and two-straight bowl victories during his time in Raleigh. He’s now in his seventh season with the school and the team is coming off a nine-win campaign last year and has a favorable schedule this fall. Hurricane Florence cancelled what would’ve been a great clash with No. 6 West Virginia in week three and NC State avoids Miami and Virginia Tech from the Coastal Division.
Senior signal-caller Ryan Finley has been a big part of the teams’ success this season. The six-foot-4, 212-pounder has thrown for 1,621 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Finley has the highest quarterback rating of any player in the ACC that has over 869 passing yards, with an efficiency of 156.8. Finley also leads the conference in completion percentage and averages 324 yards a game through the air. The offensive line has done a great job at protecting Finley and No. 1 in the league in sacks allowed, with only two for the season.
NC State’s defense has made the biggest improvement from last season. The unit ranks second in the ACC, allowing only 16.8 points per game. Senior linebacker Germaine Pratt leads the team in tackles and averages nearly 10 stops a game, which is No. 1 in the league. Junior defensive tackle Larrell Murchison has anchored the big boys up front and leads the team in sacks.
The Wolfpack overcame four turnovers in the win over the Eagles last Saturday to improve to 2-0 in conference play. Boston College played without its’ star running back. NC State has actually won nine of its last 11 conference games overall. Doren is hoping the scare against Boston College woke his team up and now they can focus on their big rivalry game in week seven. Regardless of the result in the Textile Bowl the Wolfpack will get the best of every opponent remaining on their schedule.