The Wolfpacker predictions: East Carolina at NC State
It is time for some NC State football.
And strangely, it picks up in 2019 almost where it left off in 2018 — hosting East Carolina. In an oddity thanks to scheduling changes forced by Mother Nature, NC State ended the 2018 regular season versus the Pirates and will open this campaign with ECU. Both also happened to be noon kickoffs.
A year ago, NC State trounced East Carolina 58-3. Few expect that type of margin again, but the Wolfpack enters the game a healthy 16.5-point favorite.
The Wolfpacker staff offers its predictions.
This game will be closer than a year ago — NC State is not going to beat ECU by practically nine touchdowns again.
This is a new and much younger Wolfpack team. It is fair to anticipate growing pains with a new quarterback as opposed to a sixth-year senior signal-caller in Ryan Finley, who was on his way to being drafted in the fourth round by the Cincinnati Bengals.
And that East Carolina team in 2018 was low on morale and personnel. Its head coach was unceremoniously fired in the week before the game, and several key players — including its promising quarterback Holton Ahlers — were out. It is a new year with fresh energy for ECU, and from all reports the Pirates seem healthy.
Ultimately, though, talent matters. While East Carolina will surely be motivated and NC State may spend some time getting through the jitters, I think the Pack will have enough talent to keep ECU at arm’s length and eventually pull away for a 34-17 victory.
Most years, I am a true believer that strange things can happen when East Carolina and NC State play each other in football.
However, I didn't expect a close game last year, and I don't think a coaching change will make a major difference Saturday. I can see former James Madison head coach Mike Houston building the Pirates back up in due time, but he hasn't had enough recruiting classes to cure what ails their offense and defense.
As a result, I just don't see the talent for East Carolina to pull off what they've done in the past. I have NC State winning 38-17 in what should be a stress-free victory that helps redshirt sophomore quarterback Matthew McKay get comfortable in his new role of team leader and starter.