The last time the Hurricanes played NC State was in 2012, a game the Canes won 44-37.
That game former Miami quarterback, Stephen Morris, threw for an ACC record 556 yards, and five touchdowns. The fifth and final touchdown was the most crucial one, that sealed the victory. With 19 seconds left on the clock, Morris linked up with former Canes receiver - and current Indianapolis Colt- Phillip Dorsett for a 62-yard score to win the game. Rayshawn Scott also made a name for himself in this game, in a matchup in which he totaled 180 receiving yards.
Fast forward to 2016. Head coach Mark Richt is in a position to compete for an ACC Coast Division title this year, and he knows the talent his team has.
The Hurricanes will be battle tested and prepared for the game against NC State, given that it is the second to last game on the schedule (they face Duke at home to end the season). If Miami can slay the giants beforehand- FSU, UNC and Notre Dame - they'll most likely be able to take down any other ACC competition. But, what about NC State? What does Dave Doeren's squad bring to the table?
For starters, the Wolfpack finished 7-6 last season. According to Rivals, they finished with the 43rd best recruiting class last season.
NC State was 7-0 against teams with losing records. They also were undefeated against FCS schools. Teams above .500? They didn't fair too well. They went 0-6. In those six losses, the Wolfpack let up 39 points per game. Mississippi State topped off NC State's mediocre season by handing them a 51-28 loss in the Belk Bowl.
There will be some experience on both sides of the ball for NC State. On offense, six starters return. On the defensive side, Doeren's team will bring back eight seasoned guys.
Doeren and his staff need to address the issue of replacing quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Last season, he led an offense that averaged 32 points per game, which was the third best average in school history. Brissett was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Patriots.
Here's the thing: The Wolfpack still hasn't found their alpha male.
The plan was to let Jalen McLendon take over the reigns, but that hasn't seem to be working well (in part to McLendon's inability to perform, and the departure of his OC Matt Canada, who left for Pittsburgh). Redshirt freshman, Jakobi Meyers, is in the mix to start, thanks to his ability as a scrambler and passer.
And then there's former Boise State QB and graduate transfer, Ryan Finley. Finley brought his talents to Raleigh to reconnect with coach Eliah Drinkwitz. Drinkwitz served OC and quarterbacks coach Boise State, the same positions he now holds at NC State. There's a slight advantage here. Finley has a better grasp of the offense than the other quarterbacks do.
Senior Matthew Dayes returns, after having finished last season with 865 yards. His season what cut short to seven games due to a season ending injury he sustained against Clemson. Jaylen Samuels is a dynamic weapon for the Wolfpack. He's been listed at tight end, but is an elusive, strong runner as well (last season he finished 368 rushing yards, 65 receptions and 16 total touchdowns).
The most notable names on the defensive side are linebacker, Airius Moore, and defensive end, Bradley Chubb. Both are sure tacklers, and solid pass rushers.
New offensive line coach, Dwayne Ledford, will look to create more pass protection for his quarterbacks, but there are flaws in the line that Miami should capitalize on.
Before facing Miami, the Wolfpack has to play Notre Dame at home. They'll also have a showdown with Clemson on the road and FSU at home. They face a formidable foe in Louisville on the road, too. I expect the Wolfpack to be sitting at 5-5 when Miami comes to town.
One thing that I question is the coaching ability at NC State. Doeren was given the job after a successful tenure at Northern Illinois. He left the MAC, and has yet to emulate that success in Raleigh. I think he lacks the ability to develop talent past a certain point. Makes me wonder how much of NIU's success should have been attributed to former coach, Jerry Kill. I think the inexperience and lack of development of players will boost Miami's chances of winning.
Final Outcome: Miami 28, NC State 14
Coaching proves to prevail in this one. Doeren is average at best when it comes to developing talent, mentoring players and pushing his team to the next level. Mark Richt is the opposite. A great motivator, a great developer of talent and by this point in the season, it will be clear that Richt has done his job to field the best team he possibly could during the 2016 season.
NC State's roster has athletes that could matchup with Miami's any day, but the players lack maturity and all seem to have reached their peak. I don't blame them. That's a coach's job. They're put in their position to help a player progress, not plateau. Another loss for the Wolfpack, a big win for Miami. After this the Canes finish the season at home against Duke, and let's hope, they'll return to North Carolina as Coastal Division champs, and leave as ACC Champs.