Now, the rematch is here, and though the Wolfpack are coming off an impressive blowout of Western Carolina in its season opener, there's once again something to worry about when the team takes on the Knights.
UCF has a balanced offensive attack, with 231 rushing yards and 241 passing yards in its 38-7 destruction of South Dakota in its first game. O'Leary has ample experience coaching against O'Brien, since he was at Georgia Tech when O'Brien was in Boston College. In short, this Conference USA team is not going to be intimidated just because it is hosting an Atlantic Coast Conference foe.
On the other hand, as O'Leary himself pointed out, this isn't the 2007 edition of the Wolfpack, either. Based on the opening-week performance, it has a much more dangerous passing attack. And while the defense was mostly untested, it settled down after allowing an opening-drive score and shut down the Catamounts the rest of the way.
The Wolfpack are saying all the right things about treating this week like it's a business trip. It will need to be at its best to avoid another disappointing loss to a very solid Knights squad.
-- Most people thought of T.J. Graham as a return specialist entering September. That was especially true after his sophomore season was shortened by five games due to injuries.
But as he showed in the opener, Graham is a dangerous receiver as well. He had six catches for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Western Carolina, which will likely cause that coaching staff no shortage of headaches this week.
-- Jake Vermiglio, Markus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy are all on the depth chart this week after being suspended for the opener. However, the coaching staff said that whether they would play this week would be determined by what happened in practice.
SERIES HISTORY: Central Florida leads North Carolina State 1-0 (last meeting, 2007, 25-23 Central Florida).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: North Carolina State could have one of the best deep passing attacks in the country, with Russell Wilson under center and Owen Spencer, T.J. Graham and Jarvis Williams as receiver. The questions concern the running game, which will have to become more well-established by the time ACC play starts.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: It was hard to tell much about the Wolfpack defense in the season opener, since it overwhelmed Western Carolina. Central Florida will test NCSU both running and passing, and will likely attack the inexperienced secondary.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a sense of focus we never had. This is a business trip. Every game is business." -- North Carolina State wide receiver Owen Spencer told the Raleigh News and Observer, on this weekend's road game against Central Florida.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: North Carolina State at Central Florida, Sept. 11 -- North Carolina State (1-0) faces a key early test in its trip to take on Conference USA's Central Florida. It's a key nonconference tilt if the Wolfpack hope to get to a bowl game, and more critical to help gain the confidence it will need if it hopes to contend for the ACC crown.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Start strong and run the ball. The Wolfpack fell behind early when the two teams last met, and gave up an early score last weekend to Western Carolina. If it can hold the line on defense, it should be able to score enough points to win, but it will have to run the ball effectively to open up the deep passing game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Russell Wilson -- Wilson put up good numbers against Western Carolina, but the coaching staff still thought he looked rusty. If so, he won't get much of a chance to make cost-free mistakes against Central Florida, which has a solid defense and should be ready for him.
RB Dean Haynes -- Haynes was a feel-good story when he came out of nowhere to win the starting job for the season opener, but he'll need to look better this week if he plans to keep it. The competition is tough, and fellow freshman Mustafa Greene isn't far behind.
LB Nate Irving -- Irving waited a year to take the field, since he missed all of 2009 after being injured in a car crash. But surprisingly, he's continuing to have to wait to make his first tackle since then. He was held without a hit in the season opener, and will look to get in the scorebook against UCF.
-- QB Mike Glennon suffered what looked to be a minor knee injury in the season opener. He is still listed as the backup to Russell Wilson in this week's depth chart, but that could change later in the week if it proves more bothersome than anticipated.
-- The Wolfpack picked up a verbal commitment from high school linebacker Brandon Pittman prior to the season opener.
-- RB James Washington missed the season opener with an injured hamstring. His status for the Central Florida game was to be determined later in the week.