The 2009 schedule has been released. NC State, which is expected to be one of the contenders to take the Atlantic Division crown, will have eight homes games, but their four road tilts, all in conference action, includes a trip to Blacksburg, Va., for the first time since 2004.
Here is the schedule, and below is an in-depth look at the teams NC State will face and how they stack up on paper headed into 2009.
2009 Schedule Sept. 3 South Carolina (ESPN) Sept. 12 Murray State (6 p.m.) Sept. 19 Gardner-Webb (6 p.m.) Sept. 26 Pittsburgh Oct. 3 at Wake Forest Oct. 10 Duke Oct. 17 at Boston College Oct. 31 at Florida State Nov. 7 Maryland Nov. 14 Clemson Nov. 21 at Virginia Tech Nov. 28 North Carolina
Sept. 3 (Thursday night) South Carolina Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
2008 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in SEC
2008 postseason: Lost 31-10 to Iowa in the Outback Bowl
2008 vs. NC State: South Carolina won 34-0 in Columbia, S.C.
Returning leaders: Passing: Smelley, 169-of-302 passing for 1,922 yards and 14 touchdowns with 15 picks Rushing: Garcia, 70 carries for 198 yards and two touchdowns Receiving: Moe Brown, 30 catches for 391 yards and a touchdown Tackles: Norwood, 75 Tackle for losses: Norwood, 14.5 Sacks: Norwood, 9 Interceptions: Culliver, 3
Snapshot: Steve Spurrier has been struggling to turn the corner at South Carolina, and if he is going to do this season, he will need to find himself a consistent quarterback. He also must find a running game after losing Mike Davis, the only player on the roster to rush for over 200 yards last year.
Defensively, the Gamecocks suffered some losses, but caught a break when Norwood, their star linebacker, decided to return to South Carolina after originally indicating he would turn pro. Nevertheless, the Gamecocks must replace most of its secondary.
Sept. 12 Murray State Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
2008 record: 5-7 overall, 4-4 in Ohio Valley Conference
2008 postseason: None
Series record: First ever meeting
Returning offensive starters: WR Daniel Ard, OT Stephen Hugg, C Rhett Brooks, OG Vincent Rivers, OT Eric Ornella, TE DeAngelo Nelson, WR Marcus Harris, QB Jeff Ehrhardt, QB Chris Franklin, RB Charlie Jordan, WR Derrick Townsel
Returning defensive starters: DE Jamal Crook, DT Tyler Sinclair, DT Richard Nelson, DE Austen Lane, LB Tamar Butler, LB Zach Kutch, CB Lamar Hall, CB Harry McCall, S Taylor Lanigan
Returning kickers: K/P Kienan Cullen, P Jordan Gay
Returning leaders: Passing: Ehrhardt, 169-of-266 passing for 1,885 yards and 11 touchdowns with eight picks Rushing: Jordan, 139 carries for 534 yards and six touchdowns Receiving: Harris, 61 catches for 652 yards and six touchdowns Tackles: Lanigan, 104 Tackles for losses: Lane, 22 Sacks: Lane, 12 Interceptions: Hall, 3
Snapshot: Murray State was a very young team in 2007, and most of their key contributors are back this year. Ehrhardt is a dual-threat quarterback under center, but Franklin is a good option at the position as well. Both did well in 2007, and their running backs and receivers are back.
Murray State though gave up points in bunches last year. Opponents averaged 31.3 points per game and 328.4 yards of total offense.
Offensive starters returning: QB Stan Doolittle, WR Tyson Petty, RB Philip Peoples, WR James Perry III, RT Kyle Webber, RG Austin Osment, C C.J. Bryant, LG Corey O'Daniel, TE Josh Miller.
Defensive starters returning: DE Leon Hudson, DE Jordan Woods, OLB Jeffrey Williams, MLB Dami Teniola, OLB Marty Patterson, CB Bryce Nixon, FS Lyndrez Leslie, CB Cedric McGowan
Kickers returning: K Ryan Gates
Returning leaders: Passing - Doolittle, 106-of-174 passing for 1,059 yards, four touchdowns, six interceptions Rushing - Peoples, 120 carries for 602 yards and six touchdowns Receiving - Perry, 55 catches for 661 yards and two touchdowns Tackles - Williams, 119 Tackles For Losses - Patterson, 12 Sacks - Woods, 6 Interceptions - Williams 3
Snapshot: Gardner-Webb returns everyone on offense but star left tackle Demario Deese and leading receiver Dobson Collins, a potential NFL Draft prospect. The Bulldogs also have everyone back on defense but both defensive tackles and strong safety. Peoples helps anchors the running game and rushed for 176 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown in the win over Presbyterian. Doolittle started the first six games of the season, but got hurt in the 10-7 loss to Georgia Tech. Perry III could be his favorite target, and he had nine catches for 153 yards and a touchdown against Stony Brook.
Rising sophomore Jordan Woods led the team with six sacks, and dominated Presbyterian with 11 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and fumble recovery. The Bulldogs were hurt when star linebacker Mario Brown, a preseason All-Big South selection, went down with an injury, and is a candidate for a medical redshirt, but is still going through the process of receiving the redshirt. Gates is a weapon in the kicking game, going 16 of 22 on field goals with a long of 49.
Returning leaders: Passing - Stull, 188-of-330 for 2,356 yards, nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions Rushing - Aundre Wright (WR), five carries for 34 yards and a touchdown Receiving - T.J. Porter, 25 catches for 357 yards and 0 touchdowns Tackles - DeCicco, 56 Tackles For Losses - Romeus, 15.5 Sacks - Romeus, 7.5 Interceptions - DeCicco, 4
Snapshot: Pittsburgh will be finding a new identity with a new offensive coordinator and without the services of star running back LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns last year. He left early for the NFL, and his backup LaRod Stephens-Howling also graduated. Quarterback Stull will have to fight for his job, and the Panthers' receivers are young and unproven.
Pittsburgh's defense lost its top three tackles, including star linebacker Scott McKillop, who had 137 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. Pittsburgh does return four defensive backs with starting experience, and star defensive end Greg Romeus, who had 51 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He's joined by defensive end Sheard, who had 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks on the opposite side.
Oct. 3 Wake Forest BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C.
2008 record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 ACC
2008 postseason: Won 29-19 vs. Navy in the EagleBank Bowl
2008 vs. NC State: NC State 21, Wake Forest 17 in Raleigh
Returning leaders: Passing - Skinner, 232-of-363 passing for 2,347 yards, 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions Rushing - Pendergrass, 150 carries for 528 yards and five touchdowns Receiving - Marshall Williams, 26 catches for 390 yards and two touchdowns Tackles - Robinson, 47 Tackles For Losses - Russell, 7 Sacks - Robinson, 5 Interceptions - Ghee, Robinson, Alex Frye, 1
Snapshot: Wake Forest will be replacing the majority of its back seven on defense, including star outside linebacker Aaron Curry and cornerback Alphonso Smith. All three linebackers will be new, and only rising senior Ghee and sophomore Josh Bush, both cornerbacks, have starting experience in the secondary.
The offense will need to find a new go-to guy at wide receiver with D.J. Boldin graduating, but return all five offensive line, two tight ends, and running backs Kevin Harris, Josh Adams and Pendergrass. Skinner is calm and collected at quarterback, and should improve upon his junior year numbers. Kicker/punter Popham gained valuable experience filling in for the injured Sam Swank, who has graduated.
Returning leaders: Passing: Lewis, 224-of-361 passing for 2,171 yards and 15 touchdowns with six picks Rushing: Jay Hollingsworth, 108 carries for 399 yards and a touchdown Receiving: Williams, 30 catches for 327 yards Tackles: Rey, 109 Tackles for losses: Rey, 10.5 Sacks: Oghobaase, 6 Interceptions: Gainey, Rey, Matt Daniels, Chris Rwabukama, Glenn Williams, Leon Wright, 1
Snapshot: David Cutcliffe brought a lot of excitement after leading Duke to a four-win season following years of dismal performances on the gridiron. However, Cutcliffe and the Devils may take a step back before going forward again.
The Devils return only four starters on a defense that ranked ninth in total defense and 10th in scoring defense last year, and they must also replace three starters along an offensive line that blocked for a running game that was next to last in the ACC. On the bright side, Lewis is considered one of the top signal callers in the ACC.
Oct. 17 Boston College Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
2008 record: 9-5 overall, 5-3 ACC
2008 postseason: Lost 16-14 to Vanderbilt in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Returning leaders: Passing - Dominique Davis, 63-of-138 passing for 741 yards, six touchdowns, four interceptions Rushing - Montel Harris, 179 carries for 900 yards and five touchdowns Receiving - Gunnell, 49 catches for 551 yards and four touchdowns Tackles - Herzlich, 110 Tackles For Losses - Herzlich 13 Sacks - McLaughlin, Ramella, 4 Interceptions - Herzlich, 6
Snapshot: Boston College has had a crazy offseason with coach Jeff Jagodzinski getting fired after essentially voicing his desire to return to the NFL and interviewing for the head coaching job of the New York Jets. He didn't get, but was hired as an offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani was promoted to be the head coach.
Spaziani inherits some talented wide receivers and offensive lineman on offense, and a good group of defensive ends, linebackers and defensive backs on defense. However, defensive tackle is a major problem area, and Davis has to eliminate doubts at quarterback. Haden and Harris will be counted upon to build off their true freshman seasons at running back and ease the transition for Davis, who did start the ACC title game and bowl game, both of which were losses for BC. The Eagles could also be bolstered by the return of injured defensive end Alex Albright, who missed the majority of last year with a neck injury. Herzlich will be an All-American candidate at outside linebacker.
Oct. 31 Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
2008 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 ACC
2008 postseason: Won 42-13 against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl
2008 vs. NC State: Florida State 26, NC State 17 in Raleigh
Returning leaders: Passing - Ponder, 177-of-318 passing for 2,006 yards, 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions Rushing - Jermaine Thomas, 69 carries for 482 yards and three touchdowns Receiving - Easterling, 30 catches for 322 yards and one touchdown Tackles - Watson, 46 Tackles For Losses - Watson, 8 Sacks - Kevin McNeil, 4 Interceptions - Watson, P. Robinson, J. Robinson, 1
Snapshot: Florida State had been searching for several years for a quarterback, and might have finally found one in Ponder, who hurt team with his arm and legs. The quick Thomas is expected to be ready to take over for Antone Smith, and will be running behind the young, but talented group of offensive line. All five linemen return, and so does tight end Piurowski and fullback Sims. FSU did dismiss wide receiver Preston Parker from the team following another arrest, and finding some consistent pass catchers will be an early-season priority.
Florida State's defense took a hit, particularly at defensive end and linebacker, but returns Watson, who is a difference maker when healthy at outside linebacker, and defensive backs Jamie Robinson and Patrick Robinson. The Seminoles lost star defensive end Everette Brown a year early to the NFL Draft, and will need to develop a pass rush.
Returning leaders: Passing - Turner, 214-of-374 passing for 2,516 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions Rushing - Scott, 209 carries for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns Receiving - Smith, 24 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns Tackles - Wujciak, 133 Tackles For Losses - Wujciak, 8.5 Sacks - Jared Harrell, 2 Interceptions - Jamari McCollough, 4
Snapshot: Maryland's defense will be going through an extensive overhaul, and so will the offensive line and receivers. The Terrapins will need to replace both defensive ends and outside linebackers, but do return stalwart Wujciak in the middle. The secondary returns three players with starting experience, plus a few backups who played this past year.
Turner and Scott lead the offense, but star wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey gave up his last year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft. Fellow receivers Isaiah Williams and Danny Oquendo also graduated, so developing some new targets for Turner is a must. Scott and rising sophomore Davin Meggett are a quality 1-2 punch at running back, but the Terps will need to replace three starters on the offensive line.
Nov. 14 Clemson Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
2008 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in ACC
2008 postseason: Lost 26-21 to Nebraska in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl
Returning leaders: Passing: Willy Korn, 26-of-38 passing for 216 yards and a touchdown with a pick Rushing: C.J. Spiller, 116 carries for 629 yards and seven touchdowns Receiving: Ford, 55 catches for 710 yards and four touchdowns Tackles: Conner, 125 Tackles for losses: Jenkins, Sapp, 10 Sacks: Jenkins, Maye, Sapp, 2 Interceptions: Butler, Chancellor, 4
Snapshot: Dabo Swinney takes over the reign full-time with some talent but also some question marks on his roster. At the top of Swinney's to-do list is finding himself a quarterback, with Korn and redshirt freshman Kyle Parker two of the main candidates. The return of Spiller at running back and Ford at receiver gives the offense two dynamite playmakers, and most of the offensive line returns.
Defense will be this Clemson team's strong suit. The Tigers return the huge bulk of that unit, and look for them to be more aggressive under Swinney then they had been under Tommy Bowden.
Nov. 21 Virginia Tech Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
2008 record: 10-4 overall, 5-3 in ACC
2008 postseason: Beat Cincinnati 20-7 in the FedEx Orange Bowl
Returning leaders: Passing - Taylor, 99-of-173 passing for 1,036 yards and two touchdowns with seven picks Rushing - Evans, 287 carries for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns Receiving - Coale, 36 catches for 408 yards Tackles - Cody Grimm, 71 Tackles For Losses - Worlids, 18.5 Sacks - Worilds, 8 Interceptions - Virgil, 6
Snapshot: Virginia is the two-time defending ACC champs, and they are scheduled to return 16 of their 22 starters from both sides of the ball in 2009. In other words, expect the Hokies to be preseason favorites for the conference crown and perhaps be even ranked in the top 10 in preseason polls.
Defensively, Virginia Tech must replace two linebackers, but seem to have capable replacements in Grimm and Barquell Rivers. The bigger questions remain on offense despite returning nine starters, including freshman sensation Evans at running back. Virginia Tech was next to last in the conference in total offense at 303.4 yards per game, and Taylor has yet to prove he is a capable passer.
Nov.28 North Carolina Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
2008 record: 8-5 overall, 4-4 in ACC
2008 postseason: Lost 31-30 to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl
2008 vs. NC State: NC State 41, North Carolina 10 in Chapel Hill
Returning leaders: Passing - Yates, 81-of-135 passing for 1,168 yards and 11 scores with four picks Rushing - Draughn, 198 carries for 866 yards and three touchdowns Receiving - Draughn, 16 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown Tackles - Sturdivant, 122 tackles Tackles For Losses - Carter, 11 Sacks - Carter, 5 Interceptions - Burney, Williams, 2
Snapshot: UNC returns nine starters on an opportunistic defense that gave up a lot of yards, an average of 365.4 per game, but only 21.2 points per game. A lot of that had to do with 20 interceptions, tied for second best in the ACC last year. Outside linebackers Sturdivant and Carter are a tough tandem, and the Heels return every contributor back on the defensive line, so the front seven should be stout in 2009.
The defense may have to carry the load a bit however because offensively the Heels may need time to find a passing attack. UNC lost its top three wide outs in 2008 and the entire right side of the offensive line. Injury-prone Yates will need to establish the passing attack to keep defenses from stacking the box to stop Draughn and the running game.