As I was blissfully surfing my XM Radio Saturday afternoon, I happened to stumble across ESPN Radio’s ACC preview. I forget the second member of the broadcast tandem, but the primary analyst was NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper (who must be branching out). Unsurprisingly, they pegged Miami, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Boston College as the top 4 ACC contenders.
They spent a good 60-90 seconds discussing NC State specifically. Much of what Kiper had to say made sense – he noted that the big question to be answered is whether NC State has a good defense, or a truly great one. That’s a fair question, and probably the key to whether we have a very good season or another forgettable one. Kiper did acknowledge that our front four is as good as any in the nation, and went beyond the obvious plaudits for Super Mario, praising the gifts of John McCargo and the potential of DeMario Pressley. Left unsaid (as to how the defense could merely be good) are our questions at linebacker and in the secondary. Having such a dominating front four should have the linebacker crew licking their chops, but they underperformed last year, and seemed like a weak link in the spring game. In the global ACC schedule section, Kiper mentioned the opener against Virginia Tech as one of 5 games to watch, hinting that this could be the game that gets NC State football back on the winning track. I couldn’t agree more.
The “ouch” part came in his bottom-line assessment. Kiper noted that if State won its close games like it failed to do so last year (Mental toughness! I yelled at my radio while idling in the driveway), then the Wolfpack could win “6 or 7 games.” My jaw hit the steering wheel. Is this really our upside potential? With a non-conference schedule that only includes 1 possible loss (where we will still be favored), and a conference slate without Miami? Having already thrown down the gauntlet for an 8-win season as the minimum necessary to credibly claim our program back on track after 2 very disappointing seasons, I hope Kiper is wrong. If he’s right, Chuck might want to make sure his resume is updated. 6 or 7 wins IF THINGS BREAK OUR WAY isn’t acceptable, folks.