N.C. State has in recent years become a stable if unspectacular program, but with a starting quarterback to replace, a new coaching staff and a brand new offensive system, it's hard to know just what to expect out of a team that finished 2012 7-6.
Head coach Dave Doeren has been handed a favorable schedule for his first year in Raleigh, though. The Wolfpack has eight home games and won't have to travel anywhere in non-conference play; the team will only leave the state of North Carolina twice all season. That's good news for an outfit that is probably going to need whatever extra edge it can get in order to reach bowl eligibility.
2013 N.C. State schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
N.C. State opens the year with a contest against Louisiana Tech, which is coming off a fantastic 2012 season but endured a lot of offseason turnover as well. Richmond follows, and the Wolfpack may well be 2-0 heading into its ACC opener against Clemson on Sept. 19. It's the first time N.C. State has played its conference opener at home since 2006.
The toughest game of the season for the 'Pack might be that Clemson game, but it also must travel to Florida State. Beyond the Seminoles, the slate of road games is bearable; trips to Duke, Wake Forest and Boston College all are, in theory, winnable. The degree to which they are winnable is going to depend on how well the team adjusts to the new staff, and how the guy under center performs.
N.C. State does return experienced players at the skill positions, but there nonetheless doesn't appear to be a wide margin for error here. Fortunately, the schedule at least limits the potential for major embarrassments, and the team is capable of scraping together enough wins to get bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season. That would make 2013 a success for Doeren and company.