No. 14 NC State (6-1) will play its biggest game of the year this Saturday in South Bend, squaring off against No. 9 Notre Dame (6-1) in a matchup with clear playoff implications.
The Wolfpack, who have won six straight games since their season-opening loss to South Carolina, are confident.
“I feel great,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I feel like these guys have prepared the right way, our coaches have done a great job getting them ready, and (we’re) looking forward to the contest. Two really physical teams that are playing well.”
NC State beat Florida State in Tallahassee in September and handled Louisville on the first Thursday in October to vault into the playoff picture. Still, overconfidence won’t be an issue for the Wolfpack, as the next two games – at Notre Dame and against No. 7 Clemson (6-1) – will likely define their season.
Indeed, Doeren, 45, has kept his players grounded this season, in part because of what happened last season.
“I think our guys were grounded a year ago when everyone turned on us, to be honest with you,” he said. “So it’s pretty easy for us to say, ‘Win or lose, we’re not going to listen to people – because we know what they do when you don’t win.’ We’ve tried to insulate our guys into an atmosphere where all we care about is what we did yesterday and how we’re going to learn from it and get better today. We don’t look ahead. We do inspect and identify and create action plans for the next day, every day of the week, and it’s been easy to focus them because we’ve been doing that since we started this thing in January.”
NC State started 4-1 last year before losing at Clemson in overtime. Things spiraled from there, as 4-1 became 4-5 in a flash.
“We lost a (close) game last year to Clemson, and after that, we did not handle that loss well and had a tough month in October and really had a lot of people on the outside saying bad things about our coaches, our players,” Doeren said. “Our guys hung together and we won three of the last four games. I thought it really helped us grow as a team. Our chemistry got better. We bonded and went through a really hard time together and came out of it with some incredible momentum and had some great seniors like Bradley Chubb and Jaylen Samuels and B.J. Hill decide to stay and finish what they started because they felt it in the program. They just understand that this is a family here and we’re going to work together and not let outside influences impact us one way or the other.”
Saturday’s kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. ET.