NC State has been in pursuit of a 10-win season for the entire Dave Doeren era — and then some — and the stars may finally be aligning in 2022.

The Wolfpack return several major pieces to their team this season, including quarterback Devin Leary.

Leary is a major reason why Doeren has raised expectations for his program entering this season. He has an argument for preseason ACC Player of the Year and was one of the most efficient passers in the country last season.

But the Wolfpack will need more than just another stellar season from Leary to get to 10 wins for the first time since 2002.

Here’s a look at how the schedule lines up and what NC State needs to accomplish this season.

Take care of business vs. inferior opponents

Given NC State’s overall talent level, it’s fair to expect a few blowouts this season. The Wolfpack play several games vs. weak Group of 5 opposition and a couple vs. inferior ACC opponents.

To get to 10 wins, NC State likely needs to sweep these opponents without much concern:

  • Sept. 3: at East Carolina
  • Sept. 10: vs. Charleston Southern
  • Sept. 24: vs. UConn
  • Oct. 15: at Syracuse
  • Nov. 12: vs. Boston College

There’s a chance Syracuse and Boston College end up being better-than-expected this season — especially the Eagles — but these are still games that NC State should win handily.

If NC State goes 5-0 in those games, it should be in great shape.

Win the toss-ups

There are several games that are up in the air. NC State gets a tough Texas Tech team at home in September and faces several potential upset threats from conference opponents.

Still, these games are winnable:

  • Sept. 17: vs. Texas Tech
  • Oct. 8: vs. Florida State
  • Oct. 27: vs. Virginia Tech
  • Nov. 5: vs. Wake Forest
  • Nov. 19: at Louisville

One major advantage NC State has vs. this section of its schedule? Continuity. Texas Tech and Virginia Tech both underwent coaching changes this offseason. Florida State’s Mike Norvell and Louisville’s Scott Satterfield could be on the hot seat by the time those games are played, too.

The Wolfpack also get home games vs. FSU, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. That could prove to be critical in pursuit of 10 wins and a division title. The game against Florida State, specifically, could go a long way toward deciding the pecking order in the Atlantic.

Realistically, NC State probably just needs to win 4 of these 5 games to be in a good position. That should be an attainable goal given where this team wants to go in 2022.

Don’t get swept in the big games

NC State should have 2 games circled this season — at Clemson and at North Carolina.

Clemson is NC State’s biggest competition in the ACC Atlantic. The Tigers were perennially penciled into the top spot in that division before a hiccup last season. They’re going to be formidable in 2022, but the lack of certainty at quarterback means the Tigers are vulnerable once again.

It also plays into NC State’s hands that this game is taking place relatively early in the year. Clemson will host the Wolfpack on Oct. 1, which could be early enough that Clemson hasn’t figured out its QB situation yet. Incumbent starter D.J. Uiagalelei is expected to be pushed by incoming 5-star freshman Cade Klubnik.

As for the Tar Heels, this game will of course be played on Black Friday and will end the regular season. UNC had a disappointing year last season, but it will still be a threat in what is sure to be a dangerous final regular season game for the Wolfpack.

If NC State can win just 1 of those games, a 10-2 regular season is a very realistic outcome. It’s also possible it will represent the Atlantic in the ACC Championship Game, which could create another winning opportunity.

Even if the Wolfpack slip up 3 times during the regular season — as they did last year — there will still be a bowl game on the other side of it. Provided, of course, the other team doesn’t again cancel the game hours before kickoff.

It’s been 19 seasons without double-digit victories for the Wolfpack, but there’s a clear path to that streak ending in 2022.