As an annual tradition, Technician sports editors (and football beat writer Jaylan Harrington) have put together our predictions for the 2020 NC State football season for these categories: record, offensive MVP, defensive MVP, best win and breakout player.
Jaylan: 6-5 - Between Wake Forest, Virginia, Duke, Liberty, Syracuse and Georgia Tech, I see six wins on NC State’s schedule. Knowing the Wolfpack, it’ll lose to Syracuse and beat a team out of its league like Miami, but six wins is what I’m sticking with.
Camden: 4-7 - I like a win against Liberty as well as getting revenge over Georgia Tech, but I don’t think this team has enough to pull out more than two of these 50/50 games against Syracuse, Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and Pittsburgh. And what could possibly go wrong hosting Wake Forest to start the season.
Nicholas: 5-6 - This is going to be a weird year, there is no doubting that. Games are going to be rescheduled (one already has for State). Players, sometimes entire positions groups will miss games. Anything could happen this year. Last year, NC State went 4-8, not great. I could see some slight improvement this year but I am going to err on the side of caution and say just under .500 would be a decent benchmark for this year.
Tristan: 6-5 - I am going to join Camden in the sentiment that the team drops its first game against Wake Forest because the Wake curse is very very real. However, to make up for it, I think the team has a legitimate shot at an upset over Miami during the home game scheduled for Nov. 6. For the rest of the slate, I have the team beating Liberty, Pitt, Syracuse, Georgia Tech and one of Duke or Virginia.
Jaylan: Zonovan Knight - Let's not overthink this: Zonovan Knight is clearly the most talented player on NC State's roster, and the stats he put up, even while hobbled last year, show that.
Camden: Zonovan Knight - With no major answer at quarterback right now, the offensive MVP gravitates to the strongest part of the team: the running game. A year after averaging 5.5 yards per carry, look for Zonovan Knight to break 1,000 yards, even with a three-headed rushing attack.
Nicholas: Zonovan Knight - I feel like the fact that we all picked him really says everything you need to know. Knight was good last year and he is very likely going to be great this year. If you want some numbers to back that up, look at the other editors’ reasoning. No reason to repeat the same stats four times over.
Tristan: Zonovan Knight - Knight has everything you want in a lead back, and the swagger of a star, what’s not to like? Knight, along with the other running backs, will be the primary source of offense this season and should carry State to some impressive wins. ‘Nuff said.
Jaylan: Tanner Ingle - There's a serious drought of experience in the secondary besides Tanner Ingle, who's got two seasons as a starter under his belt. With huge question marks at corner and the other safety spot, Ingle will be invaluable as one of NC State's most reliable players.
Camden: Alim McNeill - It’s always the defensive line that is the lockdown part of the defense and this year will be the same with Alim McNeill leading the way. 5.5 sacks last year was second on the team behind Larrell Murchison, so bet on McNeill having at least seven in 2020.
Nicholas: Alim McNeill - McNeill made 24 tackles his freshman year and 28 last year, and I can only see that number continuing to go up. A freshman All-American in 2018 according to 247sports, a ProFootballFocus All-ACC honorable mention last year proves I’m not the only one who is high on McNeill.
Tristan: Payton Wilson - McNeill is going to be great for sure, but I’m not sold on the line making as much of an impact as NC State’s great linebacker corps will. Wilson saw his first season of a full workload last season and still poured in 69 nice tackles, an interception and three pass deflections. I would hate to be an offensive player matched up with Wilson in just his second full season.
Jaylan: Duke - NC State is not going to have very many good wins this season, and it’s not fair to expect it to. Out of its most likely wins, Duke or Wake Forest will have the best season. I’ll go with Duke given they have a tried and true quarterback in Clemson transfer Chase Brice.
Camden: Duke - NC State is ranked 11th out of 15 in the ACC preseason rankings and I only have the team winning three ACC games with Liberty making a fourth win. Those wins will be Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Duke, making Duke at home the best win.
Nicholas: UNC-Chapel Hill - Like I said in my record prediction, this is going to be a weird year and anything can happen. The only team State has zero chance of beating is Clemson, for obvious reasons. A lot of people are talking about UNC-CH being great this year, which is the exact reason I could see this happening. Is it super likely? No. But could I still see it happening? Yes. State are 6-4 against the Heels in the last 10 meetings. This isn’t likely to be the hottest take you see from one of our editors this year.
Tristan: Miami - I’m pretty confident in this selection, as I think Miami is slightly overhyped by the media, especially considering the team’s record over the last two seasons. I honestly think that despite the homefield advantage not mattering as much, the Pack can muster out a big win in Carter-Finley, especially considering Miami is missing its star player.
Jaylan: Vi Jones - USC transfer Vi Jones has serious buzz behind him, backed up by the fact he won both defensive and special teams scout team player of the year honors while redshirting last year. Sure, NC State is well-set at linebacker, but I think Jones will make a name for himself this year.
Camden: Tyler Baker-Williams - If there is anything NC State football fans know, it’s that the Pack needs more production out of the defensive secondary. Baker-Williams could be a big piece to that puzzle as Pro Football Focus ranked him the top returning slot corner in the ACC and the fourth-highest in the Power Five.
Nicholas: Porter Rooks - NC State had four wide receivers last year make 30+ receptions last season, with one of those, Tabari Hines, graduating. That leaves the door open for someone else to step up and with there likely being more playing time on the table for young players this year, a top-25 wide receiver recruit could make a big splash in his first season. In his senior year at Myers Park, Rooks caught 54 passes for 905 yards and 13 touchdowns. Rooks is going to be a good player for State, it will all just depend on if he gets the playing time to prove that this season.
Tristan: Devin Carter - Carter was flat-out a beast last season in his first full season of action, finishing second in receiving yards on the team and posting an absolute whammy over Boston College, posting 140 yards on just six receptions in the game. Carter was named a co-recipient of NC State’s most improved player award last year, if that wasn’t enough for you. Oh, and he will likely start over those with far more experience than him.