Dave Doeren

N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren is 56-46 in his ninth season with the Wolfpack, after two outstanding (23-4) years at Northern Illinois.

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State takes on its toughest non-conference opponent this weekend when it welcomes N.C. State to town.

The Wolfpack (1-0) sit just outside the AP top 25. Meanwhile, Mississippi State (1-0) is coming off a 35-34 win against Louisiana Tech in a game it was favored by three touchdowns in.

Jonas Pope IV covers N.S. State for The News & Observer in North Carolina. Here's what he had to say about the upcoming matchup in Starkville:

Q: N.C. State is a team moving up the polls, what are expectations for this team now?

A lot of that rides on what happens on Saturday. If they win, yes, NC State should be in the top 25 the following week. The expectations for this team now is bowl game or bust, that's pretty much the case with the Pack every year. But they won 8 games a year ago, with 20 starters back, they really expect to contend for a division title and a nine or 10 win season.

Q: How did N.C. State become a real top-25 contender these past few years?

Developing players under Dave Doeren. Doeren has made a living off of bringing in 2 star, 3 star talent and letting them develop throughout the years. The 2019 season was really the first time he had to throw young pups into the fire and it showed. But when he has time to insert juniors and seniors into the lineup, those have been his best teams.

Q: How did the N.C. State defense matchup with the Air Raid offense?

The deepest position group on the defense is the secondary, and good thing, right? They have four or five guys at corner who could all be starters. Their nickel back (Tyler Baker-Williams) is versatile and attacks from all over and their safety's - Tanner Ingle, Cyrus Fagan - fly all over the field. All those guys have played a lot of football and won't rattle easily. The corners are all big guys, 6-1 or taller, and can disrupt routes at the line. The 3-man defensive line won't get a lot of sacks, but the front seven (or six) find creative ways to apply pressure.

Q: Why was the N.C. State rushing offense so effective in Week 1?

Fresh legs. A combination of Ricky Person, Jr. and Zonovan Knight were able to wear down the South Florida defense. Ricky and Zonovan are pretty much the same guy - physical backs with a rare combination of speed - and they fed off each other. The offensive line played well, making the holes for those guys to run through.

Q: What's one matchup you feel could determine this game?

The trenches. MSU will provide a bigger, more athletic front than NC State saw in week one. How do they respond to that? State's defensive line is average size, and MSU will have an advantage across the board on the offensive line. The Bulldogs' defensive line isn't South Florida and it'll come down to how the Pack's offensive and defensive lines adjust.

Q: Who are 2-3 players who could be the reason N.C. State wins or loses?

Quarterback Devin Leary missed some throws early last week, including one that led to an interception. He eventually settled down, but if he's shaky early, that won't be good. If he's come and collected, he can make plays.

Tanner Ingle, the NC State safety. The team just plays on a different level when he's on the field. However, he was ejected from three games a year ago for targeting. If he stays in the game, that unit is really good. If he gets another ejection, they aren't the same group without him.

Payton Wilson, NC State linebacker. All-ACC performer is the heartbeat of the defense. Plays with a lot of emotion, which can sometimes get him in trouble. If he's locked in, he'll leave Starkville with double-digit tackles. If he spends too much time talking after plays and MSU gets in his head, it usually hurts the defense.

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