Evaluating State's 2020 Football Schedule
Now that the 2020 football schedule is out, having been announced by the ACC on Wednesday, it's time to take a look at who NC State will be playing, when it will be playing them and what it all means as the Wolfpack looks to bounce back from last season's 4-8 disappointment.
The schedule includes seven home games, just as it did in 2019. But this time, there won't be a month-long gap between dates at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The longest homestand of the season will be three games, between Sept. 26-Oct. 10 against Delaware, Florida State and Duke. And only once, at Clemson on Oct. 17 and the open date on Oct. 24, will the Wolfpack go more than two weeks without playing at home.
As for the order or opponents, coach Dave Doeren won't have the luxury of easing into the season the way it did in 2019 with opening games East Carolina and Western Carolina.
That having been said, the first couple of weeks could have been significantly more difficult if the ACC had decided to match State up against defending national runnerup Clemson on Sept. 3 -- which was a distinct possibility given the scheduling dynamics in play.
Instead, the Wolfpack will play that Thursday night at Louisville. Hardly a picnic, but still a much more reasonable chance at getting the season off to a positive start than getting shellacked at Death Valley by Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Co.
The home opener on Sept. 12 is also challenging because it's against an SEC opponent. But again, it's also not unreasonable considering that the Bulldogs are coming off a 6-7 season and will still be in the process of getting used to new coach Mike Leach's air-raid offensive scheme.
Assuming it survives that difficult two-week opening stretch without suffering through the same kind of injury epidemic that derailed the 2019 season, nonconference games at Troy and at home against Delaware should give State a chance to get some confidence, figure out its quarterback situation and build a little momentum heading into the meat of the season and a finishing stretch that has it playing seven of the final nine games at Carter-Finley.
A couple of other observations:
◼ For the first time since 2013, State will play all three of its in-state ACC rivals (something that should happen every year). It will take on Duke for the first time in seven years at home on Saturday, Oct. 10, Wake Forest at home on Halloween day and at North Carolina on the day after Thanksgiving: Friday, Nov. 27.
◼ The Wolfpack will play a nonconference game against Liberty the week before its rivalry showdown at UNC, which by the way will take place on the Friday after Thanksgiving. While college coaches would prefer not to play games on Fridays because it interferes with the ability of their staffs to attend high school games and recruit -- as UNC's Mack Brown expressed in a tersely-worded release Wednesday -- this one is late enough in the season that it shouldn't matter.
Overall, it's a challenging schedule. But it's not an impossibly difficult one, either. If the Wolfpack can get at least one of those first two games, figure out what to do at quarterback, adjust quickly to the schemes of its two new coordinators and most important, stay reasonably healthy, a return to the postseason is certainly a realistic possibility.