NC State football will begin its season in just over week. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some NC State football predictions for the 2022 college football season.
The Wolfpack’s expectations are sky-high, thanks in part to a large number of seniors taking advantage of the additional COVID year and a favorable schedule on the horizon.
The non-conference schedule includes a trip to East Carolina as well as home games against Charleston Southern, Texas Tech, and UConn. All of those are favorable matches. The ACC schedule features travels to Clemson and North Carolina, although the Wolfpack will host ACC rival Wake Forest.
Last year, NC State finished 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the ACC, but their dreams were shattered by UCLA’s COVID outbreak just hours before the Holiday Bowl. The aim remains the same this season. NC State head coach Dave Doeren also understands that the Wolfpack will be under the spotlight in 2022.
“They’ll be motivated,” Doeren said, via Athlon Sports. “Our guys have a chip on their shoulder. We didn’t get to the ACC Championship [Game]. We have a lot to prove still.”
In that regard, consider the following bold NC State football predictions for 2022.
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NC State Football 2022 Predictions
3. Thayer Thomas gets >1,000 receiving yards
In 2021, 30 Division I wide receivers surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. In 2022, Thomas should be one of them.
Thomas had 51 receptions for 596 yards and eight touchdowns despite not being Devin Leary’s favorite target last season. With Emeka Emezie gone to the NFL, Thomas’ output should skyrocket in 2022.
Devin Carter may be the team’s best deep threat, but Thomas will gobble up yards in the slot. He should also be Leary’s first choice on many reads.
Thomas was very steady last season, although he only had two catches for seven yards against South Florida and Florida State. With better stats in those two games and if the Holiday Bowl was played, he may have approached 700 yards last year.
Thomas recorded four catches for 122 yards and a touchdown against Boston College, including a 79-yard touchdown. He also had 82 yards and a touchdown against Furman and 80 yards and a touchdown against Syracuse.
Thomas has the skill and this year, he will have the opportunity to really ball out.
2. Devin Leary will be considered for the Heisman
Devin Leary’s statistics in 2021 were undeniably remarkable. He set a school record with 35 touchdown passes, breaking Phillip Rivers’ mark. In addition, he became only the fourth quarterback in the playoff era to throw for 35 touchdowns, five or fewer interceptions, and more than 3,400 yards.
Looking ahead to the 2022 college football season, Leary will have to make another leap to receive one of the four invites to New York for the annual Heisman Trophy presentation. Last year’s Heisman winner, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, is back for his junior season. Young threw for 4,872 yards, 47 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2021.
Needless to say, Leary needs to put up numbers in that neighborhood, too.
There are promising signs this offseason, though. Leary never looked better throughout spring and fall camp, and he will undoubtedly put up massive numbers this season. There is no doubt he will be considered for the Heisman, but whether he actually gets to be among the top four is still up in the air.
The reality is regardless of what Devin Leary and his team do, it will be tough for him to become a top-four Heisman Trophy contender in 2022. That’s mainly because both Ohio State and Alabama are returning with high-profile quarterbacks.
CJ Stroud (OSU) and Bryce Young (Alabama) will be the consensus Heisman Trophy favorites heading into the 2022 college football season. Leary, for his part, might break into the top 10.
Obviously, a lot depends on what happens in the first five weeks of the season. If NC State goes into the Clemson game undefeated and beats the Tigers behind a strong performance from Leary, his chances should improve significantly.
1. NC State will play in and win a bowl game
This year, NC State will win at least 10 games. They will also be invited to their first big bowl game since the Peach Bowl in 1995.
The Wolfpack have 17 starters coming back. That includes the aforementioned Devin Leary. With him at leading the way, NC State football may still be invited to a New Year’s Six bowl game if they do not win the ACC Atlantic Division. Having said that, winning the ACC Championship Game would almost certainly be their top priority.
The Wolfpack have everything they need for a successful season. NC State’s defense returns all but one starter and has one of the finest linebacking units in the country. Drake Thomas, who led the club in tackles and sacks in 2021, is back on the strong side. Middle linebacker Isaiah Moore and outside linebacker Payton Wilson are both returning after missing the whole 2021 season due to injuries.
After an exceedingly stingy season against the pass, the secondary returns completely intact as well. Against NC State, opposing offenses passed for only 208 yards per game, and quarterbacks completed fewer than 53% of their passes.
The offense must replace leading rusher Zonovan Knight and leading receiver Emeka Emezie. Having said that, Leary should finish as one of the best QBs in the ACC. With Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman out for the season, Leary enters 2022 as the presumptive First-Team All-ACC quarterback. That’s if he replicates his 2021 season production. If Leary, along with Thomas and Carter, can keep the offense humming, NC State football should be in for a tremendous season ahead.