The opening week of the 2022 NC State football season finally arrived with an exciting road trip to East Carolina on Saturday.
The Wolfpack opens as the 13th-ranked team in the country in the Associated Press and Coaches poll, entering the fall with the immense expectations that come with returning 17 starters from a nine-win team.
But there are still some questions hanging over the show as it makes the trip to Greenville.
Here are three questions that remain unanswered with the first start of the new season just days away.
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Is Jordan Houston really the answer as a running back?
Despite having two running backs (Bam Knight and Ricky Pearson) last year who currently play in the NFL, NC State had the second-worst rushing offense, averaging 126.2 yards per game.
Yes, the Wolfpack offense will feature ACC preseason Player of the Year and Heisman hopeful quarterback Devin Leary, but they’ll need some support to keep the pressure off him.
Is junior Jordan Houston the answer in the backfield? Houston (163 carries, 752 yards, six touchdowns) has spent three years on the reserve, and after an impressive freshman season, he’s seen his production decline each year. He told USA TODAY Network in early January that he “definitely wants to rush 1,000 yards, and I think I can do it.”
He is also the only racer with any real gaming experience.
Redshirt sophomore Delbert Mimms and sophomore Demie Sumo have six races between them. Michael Allen, NC State’s four-star running back from the class of 2022, hasn’t even sniffed college football.
Can Anthony Belton be a solid replacement for Ikem Ekwonu at left tackle?
Anthony Belton has the intangibles of 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, but whether he can replace the skill set and dominance of first-round NFL Draft pick Ikem Ekwonu at left tackle remains to be seen.
Belton was only on the field for 11 snaps last fall, but he earned the starting job at left tackle during the spring game in April. Could he be on a tight leash? If Belton struggles, utility lineman Bryson Speas could switch from right tackle to left tackle.
How will NC State handle expectations?
This might be the biggest question on the minds of the Wolfpack faithful.
Sure, NC State has the talent and the experience, but can they put them together? The program hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979 and has never won the Atlantic Division since the conference split into two divisions in 2011.
This will be the last chance for the conference to get rid of the divisions after this season.
Week 1 on the road against a raucous ECU crowd will be a major first test for the Wolfpack, who will also need road wins over Clemson, Louisville and rival North Carolina to top the table in the ACC.
David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network who covers NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at [email protected], 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.