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Not unlike last season, NC State has more questions than answers at this point. That’s proven to be a comfortable spot for the Wolfpack during Mark Gottfried’s tenure.

N.C. State proved its 4-0 start was no fluke against No. 1 Florida State, jumping out to a 17-point first-quarter lead, but it still wasn’t enough to pull off a shocking upset of the defending ACC and national champions.

No. 1 FSU visits NC State. UNC plays at Clemson. Duke visits Miami. The ACC season starts with huge hurdles and opportunities for Triangle teams.

Riley Nash and Victor Rask stand to benefit most from the loss of Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal to a broken leg. Can the two young centers take advantage? The Hurricanes’ season may depend on it.

As was the case a year ago, Duke and East Carolina both can stake a claim to being the best team in North Carolina at this early date, although NC State still could force its way into the picture. The Blue Devils and Pirates haven’t played since 2005.

NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett has four games of playing time under his belt after playing sparingly over the past three seasons. Even he doesn’t know whether that’s enough to get into game shape to face No. 1 Florida State.

The Pirates embarrassed the Tar Heels for the second straight year, even worse this time in a 70-41 victory that affirmed East Carolina’s superiority and raised questions about the direction of the North Carolina program under Larry Fedora.

Undersized, under-recruited, underappreciated. Record-breaking receiver Justin Hardy is the perfect example of all that East Carolina football represents.

New Hurricanes coach Bill Peters says not to read anything into it, but both Staal brothers opened training camp with different – and compelling – linemates than might have been expected.

This week’s controversy over Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s involvement with USA Basketball, provoked by a Yahoo! Sports column, was equal parts inevitable and amusing.

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Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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