Last season, the West Virginia Mountaineers and the N.C. State Wolfpack were set to square off in a game that would have given the college football world a top QB showdown, but Mother Nature had other plans. With Hurricane Florence bearing down the entire state of North Carolina, both parties agreed to cancel the game with no plans to reschedule during the 2018 season. This year, the Wolfpack makes the trip to Morgantown to finish out the home-and-home agreement, with both programs breaking in a new quarterback.
GET TO KNOW THE ENEMY
Where are they from?: Raleigh, NC
#BRAND Slogan: #1Pack1Goal
Recommended Blog: Backing The Pack
Famous Alumni: Philip Rivers, Zach Galifianakis, and American Idol winner/country music star Scotty McCreery
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) — Atlantic Division
THE HEAD COACH
Dave Doeren is entering into his seventh year at N.C. State, and is coming in hot off of back-to-back nine win seasons. Doeren was hired away from Northern Illinois in 2013 to lead the Wolfpack after Tom O’Brien’s dismissal. While at Northern Illinois, Doeren’s Huskies compiled a 23-4 record over two seasons, and earned a bid to the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl.
THE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR
Hoo boy, this one could get awkward.
Former West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson made the move to Raleigh, after getting passed over for the head coach gig when Dana Holgorsen went back to his home planet in January. Gibson, as well all know, is a Boone County native and is probably chomping at the bit to get back to Morgantown and put a stop to Neal Brown’s offense.
SCOUTIN’ THE WOLFPACK
Who do they lose/return?
There isn’t a lot returning for the Wolfpack on offense. Gone is quarterback Ryan Finley, who threw for 3,900 yards and 28 touchdowns. Gone is 1,000 yard, 18 touchdown running back Reggie Gallaspy II. Gone is 1,100 yard receiver Kelvin Harmon and 1,000 yard receiver Jakobi Meyers. Those four players accounted for 75% of the Wolfpack’s offense in 2018.
Doeren will need to replace an All-ACC quarterback with a number of unproven options. The most proven of those unproven options is Matt McKay. If he doesn’t win the job, then four-star Florida State transfer Bailey Hockman is waiting in the wings.
Once the quarterback position is answered, then who will they throw to? The Wolfpack have talent, but a lot of it is young or barely tested, which makes getting a feel for the ‘Pack in 2019 extremely tough.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wolfpack graduated 4 starting defensive linemen and it showed in 2018 as the ‘pack struggled to get to the quarterback. That inexperience in 2018 becomes experience in 2019 as N.C. State returns 8 starters including James Smith-Williams, who had six sacks last season.
In the secondary, senior Jarius Morehead will spearhead the safety position and gives Doeren his leading tackler in 2018 back for one more go. Doeren will use those two to help make up for the inexperience of his talented freshman linebacker Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas.
Why should/shouldn’t West Virginia be worried?
We’re three weeks into the season under a new head coach and starting quarterback. There’s obviously potential for this to go south real quick. The last thing we want to do is have Tony Gibson come back home and have his defense pitch a shutout against the guy he was passed over for. We’d never hear the end of it from the Boone County Cabal.
Bill Connelly’s S&P+ is giving the Mountaineers the edge in this, currently projecting a 61% win probability by a margin of 4.8 points. If West Virginia can run the ball to chew clock and set up opportunities with the play-action pass, there’s a very real chance that they can escape this game with the win.