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NC State, after years of scratching the surface, is looking to take advantage of an experienced and talented roster in 2022.

The Wolfpack went 9-3 last year, with a 45-42 loss to Wake Forest being the deciding factor in keeping NC State out of the ACC Championship Game. NC State ended the season with a regular-season finale victory vs. North Carolina, with its Holiday Bowl matchup vs. UCLA canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

In the Mike Norvell era, Florida State has gone 0-2 vs. the Wolfpack, losing by 14+ in each matchup. Overall, NC State has won four of its last five matchups against the Seminoles — including two straight at Carter-Finley Stadium, where this season’s game takes place.

Opponent: NC State Wolfpack

Date: Oct. 8, 2022

Time: N/A

Last matchup: 28-14, NC State win

2021 record: 9-3 (6-2 ACC)

Names to Know

Quarterback Devin Leary

The hype around the redshirt junior is large enough that the school is putting out early feelers on a Heisman campaign. After showing flashes of consistent success in his first two seasons, Leary took a major leap forward in 2021, becoming one of the country’s best under center.

Some insight into his 2021 season, via NC State:

• A finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

• Set a new school single season record with 35 passing touchdowns – he broke the previous mark of 34 held by Philip Rivers (2003).

• Ranked third in the league in passing efficiency with a 157.1 mark – the second-best mark for a season in school history.

• 3,433 yards in 2021 ranks sixth in the Wolfpack single-season record book.

• Boasted a .657 completion percentage in 2021 – the third-best mark in school history.

• ACC leader in touchdown passes thrown against league competition with 27 (two more than any other ACC QB).

And some further analysis via our SB Nation sister site, Backing the Pack:

There was a strong case to be made that the sophomore was the second-best quarterback in the league last year behind Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett. During conference play, Leary tied Pickett for first in the league with 27 passing touchdowns. His 3 interceptions was the best mark of any ACC starter and gave him the best TD/INT ratio of any QB in the conference, and he had the second best completion percentage in the league, trailing only Jordan Travis who threw less than half as many passes as Leary.

With Pickett gone, Leary has a chance to be the best signal caller in a conference that runs incredibly deep with good quarterback play. This is, of course, not a surprise to anyone who was paying attention two years ago. It was clear when he first stepped on a campus that he had impressive arm strength and a knack for ball placement. As he developed a little more touch and the game slowed down around him, he’s grown into an elite college quarterback.

There really isn’t a throw he can’t make, he’s incredibly unflappable, etc etc you’ve heard all this before. None of this news. Leary is the offense’s rock this year as it looks to sort out its running game and replace its leading receiver. Having a polished QB of this level running the show should make all of that just a bit easier.

Linebacker Drake Thomas

ESPN’s Davide Hale recently did a deep dive into the position groups of the ACC, and came away with the conclusion that the numbers show the Wolfpack have the best linebacker corps in the conference.

A huge reason for that is Thomas, who similar to Leary elevated his game in a major way in 2021, earning first-team All-ACC Honors while repping at both MLB and OLB when fellow backer Isaiah Moore suffered an injury.

From our SB Nation sister site, Backing the Pack:

Payton Wilson was supposed to be a frontrunner for DPOY. After he went down against Mississippi State, Isaiah Moore was making his case before the same thing happened to him. Drake Thomas then immediately slid into the middle spot and became the best player on the entire defense and a first-teamer, leading the team in tackles, TFLs, and sacks.

With all three of these guys back, any one of them could win ACC DPOY. It really is that good.

Best case

Third time is the charm, right? NC State has a relatively soft schedule to start off 2022, with things only ramping up with its ACC opener vs. Clemson, the week before. With that quick escalation in competition in contrast to the steady flow of challenges the Seminoles are set to face early in the season, FSU should be prepped to take on a talented defense with an even more talented gunslinger. Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis, in his debut vs. the Wolfpack, showcases both arm and leg as he uplifts the offense, while defensive back Jammie Robinson has a takeover game that starts to solidify some NFL Draft hype.

Realistic

Despite the final score of the last two matchups being a two-touchdown plus margin of victory, FSU has played NC State relatively close under Mike Norvell. While the Seminoles are able to keep up with the Wolfpack early in the matchup, in the second half, Leary’s talent combined with the experience and skillset along the front six prove too much for FSU to deal with and FSU falters on the road.

Worst case

NC State proves it is a legitimate conference contender, showcasing that by bringing the smackdown to a Florida State team that will sure to have some fatigue after a string of ACC matchups. Leary enters into Heisman talk after tossing for 4 scores and 300 yards, Cory Durden racks up a couple of sacks and a scoop and score and in an attempt to put points on the board, the Seminoles’ have a field goal blocked.

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