The hype has been building for N.C. State’s football season.
One ESPN analyst thinks the Wolfpack could be an “under-the-radar” team to crash the college football playoff. Another ESPN analyst, working for the SEC Network, upped the ante by putting the Wolfpack — not Clemson or Florida State — in his preseason top four playoff projection.
In a move that will endear him to a leery fanbase, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren went on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Tuesday morning and refused to add any fuel to the hype machine.
“I appreciate all the things that people are saying,” Doeren said on SportsCenter. “I know our fans and players do, as well.”
And then Doeren went for the brakes.
“I really focus on the day at hand,” he said. “Not to give you coachspeak, but I’ve been through it enough, where people raise you up and you don’t get there. I’d rather just try to win the day and see where that takes us in the end.”
The Wolfpack finished 7-6 last season, with wins over North Carolina and Vanderbilt (in the Independence Bowl), to offset some excruciating losses earlier in the season.
Combine the positive momentum at the end of the season, with the number of key returning players, and that’s how ESPN’s Phil Steele (“playoff crashers”) and the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic (playoff participant) arrived at their relatively outlandish projections.
To the large swatch of N.C. State fans, who have lived through, and believe in the “Law of the Wolfpack,*” any hint of outside expectations can trigger a sense of pending dread.
(*When you expect more, you get less and vice versa.)
Even Doeren references being “raised up,” as his 2015 team was with big expectations for quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s senior season. That team feasted on a flimsy nonconference schedule for a 4-0 start only to stumble to a 7-6 finish.
With Brissett off to the NFL, expectations were low last season. Yet, the Wolfpack was a missed 33-yard field goal and a dropped interception away from a season sweep of Clemson and Florida State. Doeren talked about playing catch-up in the Atlantic Division with those two national powers.