NC State Wolfpack: Keeping the Hype Train Rolling

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 28: Daelin Hayes
SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 28: Daelin Hayes /

The Wolfpack’s six-game winning streak is over, but NC State’s hopes for a phenomenal season should still be alive with Clemson coming to town.

No. 20 NC State (6-2, 4-0 ACC) hit a road block last weekend with a 21-point road loss to No. 5 Notre Dame. The Wolfpack’s defeat effectively eliminated the team from its slim chances of reaching the College Football Playoff. However, there’s still much more to salvage what can still be an amazing campaign.

Ryan Finley still shows dominant command behind center for the Wolfpack. He attempted 339 straight passes before his pick-six on Saturday. That streak ended as the second-highest in school history behind Russell Wilson (379). Many argue the aforementioned turnover should have been called back due to a neutral zone infraction the referees missed. Judge for yourself:

That being said, Eli Drinkwitz’s offense continues to thrive with Finley behind center. The Fighting Irish just happened to show why it’s a top-10 team in the nation. This slip up against Notre Dame should not waver any hope in the Wolfpack moving forward.

One of the silver lining of the loss is that it does not impact the Wolfpack’s shot at reaching the ACC Championship in Charlotte. NC State still has a spotless conference record, and the Pack should use its next opportunity to take control of the division outright.

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No. 4 Clemson (7-1, 5-1 ACC) comes to Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday afternoon for the annual Textile Bowl matchup. The Wolfpack, celebrating its homecoming, needs to capitalize as this game will likely be its most important matchup of the season.

A win this weekend puts the Pack in control of its own destiny in terms of winning the Atlantic. But it also gives State three wins over ranked opponents in the same season for the first time since 1992. That kind of mark would solidify Dave Doeren’s tenure as the Wolfpack’s head coach for years to come.*

The Tigers and Wolfpack have similar stats on paper, especially in regards to stopping opposing rushers. However, Clemson’s defense seems to respond better to stopping the pass than the Pack’s secondary. As pass-heavy an offense State has, that may end up being the deciding factor in Saturday’s contest. However, don’t count out Finley and his reliable corps of receivers so easily.

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NC State still has much to prove in terms of its staying power as an ACC contender. Right now, though, the truest test this season comes into Raleigh Saturday. Doeren’s had four-plus seasons to get his team to this point. Saturday will show how long the Doeren era can last.

*unless Doeren jumps ship for another school in, let’s say, the SEC