To help preview Virginia Tech's game this Saturday at NC State, Akula Wolf from Backing the Pack is here to answer some questions about the Wolfpack and their impressive 4-0 start. Here are my answers to his questions.
Before the season I predicted NC State to go 5-7 (1-7) this season. Feel free to spend a few paragraphs mocking this prediction.
I would, but I had 5-7 (2-6). Whoops. Sorry. What I meant to say was, one conference win?! ONE lousy stinkin' win? How high were you when you wrote that? How dare you suggest that we might follow up one five-win season with another?
What's been the biggest reason for Russell Wilson's improvement from Games 1-2 to Games 3-4? He struggle early on, especially against UCF, but lit up both Cincinnati and Georgia Tech.
I think he's finally gotten over the issues tied to an offseason focused entirely on baseball, though it's been hard to judge the extent to which that hurt his game in the early going. The other thing--the main thing--is that he's gotten much better pass protection since the Central Florida game. The Knights may be a better defensive club than both Cincinnati and Georgia Tech; for sure they have a better defensive line. They created all sorts of problems for us in that one, and it didn't help that we lost our right tackle early on.
How much does Nate Irving mean to this defense? Last year the Pack really struggled on D, but they've looked really strong this year. Are you surprised and how well Irving has played early in the year after missing all of last season?
Honestly, I'm not sure Nate played particularly well prior to the Georgia Tech game. That was the first time all year I felt like I was seeing the Nate of old. That said, I think he's meant a ton to us defensively because of his experience, because of his ability to recognize what opponents are doing down-to-down and direct the defense, and because the talent gulf that exists between he and his replacement.
He may not be all the way back yet, but Saturday was a stong indication that he's well on the way. He's a big part of what is probably the best group of linebackers that we've had since TOB got here, and those guys are really keying the improvement on that side of the ball.
What's the ceiling for this team? Can they really contend for an ACC title?
Based on what I've seen to this point, I think we can contend for the (division) title. I've been fighting the notion for weeks, but we played so well in Atlanta Saturday, my skepticism died. That's the problem with such a positive start. They can genuinely hurt me again. Dammit.
I've adjusted my expectations up two or three games--I think NC State definitely has played like a 7-8 win team. Question is whether or not we can get the breaks needed to push beyond that and put together something special.
How badly did Tom O'Brien need this 4-0 start? With a new AD on campus I imagine there was pressure to have a successful year.
He'd never admit it, but--pretty badly. I don't think this was a do-or-die season for him, but had we limped our way to another five-win campaign, it would have created the kind of toxic atmosphere heading into next season that kills regimes. He needed this start to renew some faith, to make people believe again that he can do here what he did at Boston College; he needed it to hopefully salvage what has been a horrible recruiting year; and as you noted, he needed to impress the new woman in charge.
Of course, we're a ways off from what could be deemed a successful year. This being NC State, there isn't a disaster scenario imaginable that isn't feasible. But I'll admit this year has felt different. (It helps to not lose a quarter of the team to injury.)