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Georgia Tech Football: Opponent Preview - NC State

Can the Wolfpack bounce back from a reset year in 2019, or is this Dave Doeren’s swan song?

North Carolina State v Georgia Tech Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Georgia Tech gained its third and final win of 2019 during a November Thursday night game against NC State last year. It was Tech’s best offensive game of the year, posting a 47% offensive success rate to go with 6.8 yards per play. The defense mostly struggled, giving up a 48% success rate against a bad offense, but this game gave us a preview of the kind of offense we can hope to see in coming years, combining efficient running from JP Mason with a few explosive pass plays over the top.

2019 Season Review

2019 was a massive disappointment for the Wolfpack. They entered the season in the mid 30s of Bill Conelly’s SP+ and ended the season in the mid 90s. Dave Doeren begins his eighth year at NC State, and it feels reminiscent of 2007 for Chan Gailey. Doeren seems to have wasted the peak of his roster talent, and the athletic department may finally tire of disappointing results. Doeren needs a significant bounce back to stick around for 2021.

Last year brought a 5 win decline for NC State, as they struggled to settle on a quarterback and could not replace much of the talent that headed for the NFL after the 2018 season. They lost to every bowl team that they faced in 2019, as they struggled mightily to find any offensive efficiency and could not get off the field in passing situations. The Wolfpack hope that 2019 was their equivalent of GT’s 2015 season, where they declined largely because of injuries and find a big jump in record the following season.

Who’s Gone?

Larrell Murchison - A 5th round draft pick of the Titans, the massive defensive tackle led the team with 12 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. He will be difficult to replace.

Tabari Hines - The grad transfer from Oregon is the only significant skill player to depart the 2019 Wolfpack squad. He put up 455 yards from scrimmage to go with 2 touchdowns last season.

The Wolfpack bring back a lot; 74% of last year’s production returns, according to Bill Connelly, which ranks 23rd nationally. Will it be good enough?

Who Should You Watch For?

Devin Carter - Carter caught 32 balls for 456 yards in his redshirt freshman campaign. If the quarterback play improves, watch out for his numbers to explode.

Zonovan Knight - Knight led the Wolfpack in yards from scrimmage as a true freshman, scored 7 TDs and averaged 5.5 yards per carry behind a rebuilding offensive line. He’s a stable piece as a primary back for this offense.

Louis Acceus - In only eight games, the junior linebacker recorded 49 tackles, 7 of which were for a loss. He was third on the team with 4.5 sacks, and he will be counted on to create more havoc plays this year.

Devin Leary - Will he finish the season as the starter at quarterback? Doeren has promised he will start the year, but his 5.8 yards per attempt and 48.1% completion percentage last year don’t inspire confidence.

2020 Outlook and GT-NC State Prediction

Using Bill Connelly’s team outlook for the Wolfpack, which accounts for returning production, recent history, and recent recruiting, we should expect NC State to have some bounce back this year but not to reach the levels of 2017-2018. They check in at #62 on Bill’s preseason SP+ rankings, 4 spots behind Georgia Tech. They’re projected to have an average offense and defense.

What about when GT travels to NC State to close out the regular season? SP+ sees it as a tossup, with GT winning about 47% of the time. I think it’s a great matchup for what should be a formidable GT secondary against a likely still struggling NC State passing game and an established GT running game against a defense that lost its best interior player. 31-21 Georgia Tech.

What do you see happening when the Jackets travel to NC State?