NC State Bye Week Musings

Big News Week

Before I give my thoughts on the NC State bye week, and the ACC as a whole, I’ll lay out where I’m coming from. In addition to my bio I’ll add this: I grew up in a town of 500 in North Carolina, and if you weren’t talking Tar Heels or Blue Devils it was basically all Greek to everyone else.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Steve Spurrier or Steve Sarkisian at least for a hot second in this article. I was raised in a household in which Danny Wuerffel and The Head Ball Coach wreaked havoc every Saturday. I was raised a Washington R*dskins fan, so when said Head Ball Coach took his visor to the nation’s capital, awkward teenage Matt was very excited. Didn’t last long. Childhood aside, I will miss you sir. All visors should be retired in your honor.

To Steve Sarkisian: I have never liked you in the time I’ve known who you are. Even so, I hope you get some help. I hate that your team took to the media to shot put you under the bus so fast. I heard a joke on Family Guy once, way back before it became the behemoth it is today. It went like this: Peter Griffin said he didn’t’ like The Godfather because of the language they were speaking (Italian). Lois Griffin said “It’s Italian, it’s a language of subtlety.”

Even during a throwaway, cutaway gag the show has been skewered for in the past, I’ve remembered that one. Subtlety. USC could benefit from a little of it, and it’s a good reason why I’m a Stanford fan.

Now that we got that out of the way, it’s on to our friends in Raleigh.

If I were NC State’s AD, I’d schedule Alabama, Baylor, and Ohio State as my non-conference games next year, just to make up for the JUCO-level slate they had in their first four games this year. Again, I take nothing away from the Sun Belt, C-USA or FCS. In fact, I’m rooting hard core for Appalachian State as I grew up about an hour away from Boone. In fact, the upset of Michigan is my second favorite football game of all time, behind the Biggest Upset Ever. But good Lord in Heaven, please stop scheduling such a lay up in your early schedule. It does no one any favors, and now that State has gone out and dropped two in a row, hindsight tells us that Troy, EKU, ODU, and USA did not prep them for real competition. Solely based on those abbreviations, not many casual college football fans could even tell you what schools those are.

I had NC State going 5-1 through their first six games, losing at Virginia Tech. They proved me right in almost every game thus far, only laying an egg against Louisville when I thought they would get the W.

That loss will put State a bit further down in the final ACC standings come December. Other than Georgia Tech, State has to be considered one of the bigger disappointments in a conference full of underachievers.

Virginia Tech is struggling, only bouncing back against NC State. Miami (FL) is still trying to be “back” as I said in my non-conference preview article.

GA Tech has fallen from highly ranked (14) to completely out of the picture, especially after their performance against Clemson.

Clemson and FSU have held up their end of the bargain and are steamrolling toward their date in November.

Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest have actually shown up to play so far. Wake has already pulled the conference upset that I knew they would in the summer. For the second year in a row Wake defeated a conference rival 3-0. It didn’t take them two overtimes this time around, but they stunned a Boston College team that put up 41 in the first quarter against Howard. I know Wake is head and shoulders above Howard competition-wise, but no matter what, the Eagles can play ball. Wake Forest joined Florida State as the two teams to shut out Boston College this season.

The Wolfpack is winless in conference play and sitting in sixth place, above co-winless Boston College. The Eagles are dead last because they’ve already lost three games compared to State’s two.

When I made my season prediction for the Pack, I had them finishing 8-4 with a 4-4 ACC record. This is all still very possible, as I had NC State at 5-1 instead of 4-2 mid way through the season. Louisville is still looking at sneaking into the third slot in the Atlantic. I picked NC State in the preseason, so this was and is a huge swing game in my mind as far as ACC pecking order.

Granted, the defenses they have played in the past two games are two of the tougher ones they will get in their division. Florida State and Clemson will likely hold them down, as will BC. The Eagles are holding teams to a little more than a touchdown per game. The Eagles are having trouble scoring themselves, so that game in Chestnut Hill is looking more important by the week.

Hopefully the Eagles were Wake Forest’s upset special for the season, as NC State must travel to Winston-Salem next week after their bye. Wake is at UNC today as a big road underdog, so we shall see how they fare against one of the more potent offenses in the conference.

How Did We Get Here?

So what happened to the Pack that has gotten them in the hole thus far? Losing their top running back from a year ago hasn’t helped in the least. Shadrach Thornton was a key cog in the offensive wheel. Matt Dayes has picked up the slack just fine, with tight end Jaylen Samuels complementing him nicely. Dayes leads the team in touchdowns with ten, while Samuels has nine overall.

State has played two very similar games in conference, right down to the amount of points they mustered in each game: thirteen.

I thought State’s best win of the early part of the season was the road beat down at South Alabama. State won that one by fifty points and looked to be in high gear, ready for the ACC. Louisville limped in with one win on the season, but took care of business in Raleigh to get the win.

USA did the Wolfpack no favors earlier this week by giving up 29 points in the fourth quarter to Arkansas State, going down 49-31.

The Sun Belt is a fine conference, and will likely produce a good bowl team in Appalachian State or Georgia Southern, but NC State can’t even boast a good non-conference win or loss. At least other schools in the ACC have played American Athletic foes, who now are ranked, undefeated, or both.

The offense just hasn’t been able to get the run game going in the two losses. The date with the Deacons should help to alleviate this problem. If State does pull a BC, and gets upset by Wake, it’s going to turn into a long season. I still think this one will go the way of the Pack, and NC State can get at least six wins and a bowl berth.
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