N.C. State (8-5, 4-4 ACC)


N.C. State (8-5, 4-4 ACC)

Strengths: North Carolina State has 19 starters returning, the most in the conference. Running back T.A. McLendon, when healthy, is a game-breaker. As a freshman, he rushed for 1,101 yards and 18 touchdowns, but last year those numbers dropped to 608 and nine because of injuries. He also had a key fumble that cost the Wolfpack a victory over Maryland.

Weaknesses: Coach Chuck Amato's biggest challenge is replacing quarterback Philip Rivers, the second all-time-leading passer in NCAA history. The Wolfpack also needs to shore up the defense, which was laughable against the pass last year, giving up 284 yards a game. That ranked 116th out of 117 Division I-A teams.

Key game: at Maryland, Oct. 16. The Wolfpack is 0-4 against the Terps the past four years and has lost the past three games by a total of nine points.

Extra point: N.C. State is 2-2 against Florida State since Amato's first season in 2000 and is the only team to beat the Seminoles more than once since they joined the conference in 1992.

2004 schedule

9-4 Richmond 6

9-18 Ohio State 3:30

9-25 at Virginia Tech TBA

10-2 Wake Forest TBA

10-9 at North Carolina TBA

10-16 at Maryland TBA

10-23 Miami TBA

10-30 at Clemson TBA

11-6 Georgia Tech TBA

11-11 Florida State 7:30

11-27 at East Carolina 1

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