NC State and College Football Playoff sleeper, CBS says

Well well well, how the turntables (thanks to Cory for The Office reference suggestion). From four wins in 2019 to being mocked prior to the 2020 on ACC Network, NC State finds itself in rare air heading into the 2022 campaign.

247Sports, ESPN and The Athletic among others have the Wolfpack preseason top 10. But CBS Sports’ Shehan Jeyarajah took expectations a step further earlier this week when he listed NC State, which is currently 150-to-1 odds to win the national championship, as the College Football Playoff dark horse contender from the ACC.

“The Wolfpack have hovered right on the edge of good and great for effectively the last decade,” Jeyarajah wrote. “Dave Doeren’s squad has won between seven and nine games all but one season since 2014, including a 9-3 year in 2021 that could have led to more if not for the bowl game being canceled.

“Now, North Carolina State is the only postseason top 15 squad to rank top-15 in returning production. Specifically, the Wolfpack rank no. 5 in defensive returning production, but potential All-ACC quarterback Devin Leary will ensure that the offense keeps moving.

“NC State was right on the edge of competing for the conference championship in 2021 but came just short. Circle a matchup on the road against Clemson on Sept. 30 – it could decide the ACC Atlantic.”

The aforementioned Leary is fresh off a breakout campaign in which passed for 3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns (new school record) and just five interceptions. Along with Leary, State returns four of five starters on the offensive line, including the All-ACC center Grant Gibson and standout guard Chandler Zavalaas well as three of its top four receivers, plus its two top tight end / H-backs.

Defensively, 10 of 11 starters are back, including 2021 first-team All-ACC selections defensive lineman Cory Durdenlinebacker Drake Thomas and safety Tanner Ingle. Standout linebacker Isaiah Moore spirit Payton Wilsonwho suffered season-ending injuries last fall, and nickel Tyler Baker-Williams also elected to return this fall.

The Wolfpack opens the season Sept. 3 on the road against East Carolina.

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