No, NC State's well-documented, injury-laden defense is not full strength, but that was only a part of the Wolfpack's problems in its 44-14 loss to Cincinnati on Thursday night.
In addition to the three turnovers, NC State couldn't run the ball against Cincinnati (minus-26 yards). That took away their play-action passes, and forced NC State to resort to a predictable pattern out of the shotgun. The Wolfpack couldn't protect quarterback Mike Glennon, who faced pressure all night. For the majority of the game, he didn't have enough time to think, and NC State's quarterbacks were sacked a total of seven times.
Glennon is a good quarterback. He's got a strong arm, lots of potential, and will only get better. But the offensive line and others around him need to help him out. Glennon is going to make some mistakes in his first season as a starter, but he can win games for NC State -- especially if receiver T.J. Graham continues to be a big-time playmaker.
Cincinnati, which was picked by the media this summer to finish fifth in the Big East, outplayed NC State in every phase of the game, including emotion and toughness. In a game in which the ACC needed NC State to represent the conference, the Bearcats were more physical and beat NC State soundly, leaving no doubt who was the better team. As a result, the ACC dropped to 1-3 against the Big East this season.
With the loss, NC State falls to 2-2 and has yet to beat an opponent of consequence. Both wins have come against FCS opponents, and only one of those counts towards bowl eligibility. NC State needs to find five more wins on its schedule, and after the way the Wolfpack performed against the Bearcats, that's looking less and less realistic.
Much like Boston College this season, this was supposed to be the easy part of NC State's schedule.