Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3) at No. 3/3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1), 12:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Georgia-Georgia Tech history: Georgia Tech’s first-ever football game was against Georgia, and the visiting Yellow Jackets were quite literally chased out of Athens as projectiles were thrown at their heads, according to Wikipedia. It’s a legitimate rivalry that has been stopped more than once because of bad blood between the two schools, but it hasn’t been competitive lately. Georgia Tech has won just one of the last 11 meetings.
Uh, this might be a good reason why. Tackle please?
“We’re gonna take your silver britches to the ground”
Honestly, is this hype video really necessary at this point?
Prediction: Georgia, 52-24. Is any explanation really necessary? Georgia Tech’s offense is clicking, but its defense is still suspect at best. This will be our Coastal Division champ on display. Go ACC!
Virginia (4-7, 2-5) at Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4), 12:00 PM, ESPNU
Moments in Virginia-Virginia Tech history: Interestingly enough, per Wikipedia, Virginia leads the series between the two teams in most sports except football (Tech leads 51-37-5). From 1984-98, Virginia went 9-6 against Virginia Tech. Ever since, the Hokies have won 12 of the last 13 with the only Virginia win coming in 2003. The last close loss came in 2008 when Virginia Tech won 17-14 at home. Since, Virginia Tech has won by a combined score of 117-20 in the last three games.
If Virginia Tech shows up making plays like this – you know, where their offensive players are blocking someone on the opposing team – it should be an interesting game.
The Hitler videos never get old.
At least UVa owns Virginia Tech in Quidditch.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 23-17. It was all there for Virginia a little over a week ago. Beat UNC, beat Virginia Tech, eliminate your rival from going to a bowl and earn bowl eligibility yourself. But the Cavaliers were thumped at home last Thursday by the Tar Heels, taking them out of bowl eligibility. And Virginia Tech barely escaped a bad Boston College team to keep themselves alive for a bowl. All they have to do is beat a disappointed Virginia team to earn another bowl berth.
Miami (6-5, 4-3) at Duke (6-5, 3-4), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Moments in Miami-Duke history: Duke was right there in 2009, leading 13-10 at the half. Miami trailed 16-13 at the end of the third, but Miami scored twice before a pick-six by Thaddeus Lewis ended it, and ended Duke’s hope of bowl eligibility that season.
I’m sure there are clips available of Devin Hester doing this to pretty much every ACC team. But this one, against Duke in 2005, is ridiculous.
Demarcus Van Dyke intercepts a Sean Renfree pass that Conner Vernon – normally Mr. Reliable – tipped. From the last time Miami was in Durham, Duke lost this one 28-13 in 2010 and this was one of four second-quarter turnovers for Duke, which finished with seven…
…But at least this Duke fan enjoyed the game.
Prediction: Duke, 36-31. This is a really tough call. Knowing they’re not eligible for the Coastal Division crown, will the Miami players pack it in? Duke is more than capable of beating almost anyone at home, save Clemson or Florida State. Miami is neither. But they do have the talent to beat Duke, and they’ll either be angry or despondent and lifeless. Duke, on the other hand, still has won just one game in November under Cutcliffe ever (and none this year). And the Blue Devils know they can’t win the Coastal Division anymore, either. Both teams are playing for pride (and Duke for a better bowl).
Boston College (2-9, 1-6) at NC State (6-5, 3-4), 3:00 PM, ESPN3
Moments in Boston College-NC State history: Obviously, Tom O’Brien as the former head coach of Boston College makes this one more significant for a variety of reasons. Unlike Butch Davis’ bizarro hold over his former school, Miami (Davis lost just once to his former team), BC has had the opposite effect on O’Brien. He’s 1-4 against his former school. NC State’s first win in the series under O’Brien came two years ago at home when NC State won 44-17. But last year after beating UNC, NC State lost 14-10 at a bad Boston College team.
How should NC State be expected to contend with all this BC cuteness?
I don’t think this needs any introduction. Just enjoy.
Guys….don’t do the wave. Please.
Prediction: NC State, 44-27. I wanted to pick NC State to NC State last week (and by that, I mean beat Clemson). Since that didn’t happen, I can’t pick them go to NC State this week. Although a huge part of me wants to do that. Also, Boston College has to be crushed after letting a winnable game against Virginia Tech get away from them.
Maryland (4-7, 2-5) at North Carolina (7-4, 4-3), 3:00 PM, RSN
Moments in Maryland-North Carolina history: Queen Elizabeth visited College Park (yes, you read that correctly) in 1957 for a UNC-Maryland football game. I’m going to hazard a guess and say that there is absolutely no way that could ever happen again.
As UNC’s Willie Parker is taking 20 years to turn upfield, he is caught by the shoestrings for a safety.
In perhaps the second-worst loss of the Butch Davis era, Maryland quarterback Chris Turner – hardly known as a running threat – made a nine-yard run late in the game on 4th and 5.
Prediction: North Carolina 48, Maryland 13. North Carolina isn’t going to want to pour it on in the name of defending all things ACC, since Maryland just announced they’re leaving the conference. But they’re going to pour it on because Maryland has 80,000 injuries right now and Carolina is going to want to end the season on a good note. And because Maryland football players have been dealing with this ACC stuff all week on top of everything else.
No. 10/5 Florida State (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 6/6 Florida (10-1, 7-1), 3:30 PM, ABC
Moments in Florida-Florida State history: Florida leads the series 33-21-2, but it seems to be a series of runs, as it were. Florida won six in a row from 2004-09, but Florida State had won five of six from 1998-03. Now, the Seminoles are rolling again and have won two straight under Jimbo Fisher. In one of the biggest controversies in the history of the rivalry, FSU and Florida fans still dispute to this day whether FSU wide receiver Lane Fenner actually caught the ball or not in 1966. It was called no catch, and Florida hung on, 22-19.
“The Choke at Doak” – can it really be called that if Florida didn’t lose? I’m just saying. I’m just stunned it didn’t involve a missed field goal.
Maybe this is why the FSU people are mad at the ACC today? The “Swindle in the Swamp” is a thing that supposedly happened that involved ACC refs giving FSU favorable calls. I guess the league doesn’t do this anymore?
And hey…it’s not always the players that end up fighting.
Prediction: Florida State, 37-21. Florida has a great record, but the Gators have hardly blown anyone away. Even last week against Jacksonville State, they won just 23-0. And that was their third-largest margin of victory this season behind a 38-0 rout of Kentucky and a 44-11 beating of South Carolina. Every other game – including a season-opening win over Bowling Green – has been by 20 or fewer points. Florida State hasn’t been much more impressive outside of its stadium, but in the friendly confines of the Doak, the Seminoles have been downright dominant. Expect that to continue.
Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5) vs. Vanderbilt (7-4, 5-3), 3:30 PM, ESPNU
Mascot facts: Vanderbilt is known as the Commodores because of the nickname given to their benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt. (There’s no such naval rank as commodore anymore, for what it’s worth.)
Also…uh….this is weird. The Commodore punches someone in the face for basically no reason. And it’s all the more disturbing because of that perpetual smile on his face:
Prediction: Vanderbilt, 31-17. Vanderbilt is quietly a very hot team right now, having won five straight and six of their last seven. Their best win in that stretch? Maybe at Missouri? But still, wins are wins and Wake Forest could use a few. The Deacons are reeling; their last two losses have come by a combined score of 75-6.
No. 12/9 Clemson (10-1, 7-1) vs. No. 13/12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2), 7:00 PM, ESPN
Moments in Clemson-South Carolina history: The longest uninterrupted series in the South will meet again on Saturday for the Hardee’s Trophy. Clemson leads it 65-40-4 but you wouldn’t know it based on recent results: Clemson has lost three straight and none have been particularly close. In fact, Clemson has a total of 37 points in their last three meetings with South Carolina. If South Carolina wins, they will tie their longest streak in the rivalry of four straight (from 1951-54).
This brawl was so bad in 2004 that both schools decided to ban themselves from the postseason. This was of course back when doing such a thing in the ACC wasn’t a big deal.
This 1983 brawl came first, though.
Not a bad form tackle, but he probably will be flagged for a late hit.
The catch…or the push-off? You decide.
Well done, Clemson fan.
Prediction: Clemson, 41-30. Every time we think Clemson is going to Clemson, they don’t. Generally speaking, Clemson’s season has already been wrapped up one way or the other heading into that game. That doesn’t mean the Tigers still don’t want to beat their rivals – they do – but there’s a lot more on the line for Clemson this year than in years past. South Carolina has won two straight since losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to a gruesome knee injury, but they struggled with Wofford a week ago and barely put away a bad Tennessee team the week of Lattimore’s injury. They seem to be a team living on reputation at the moment in terms of the polls.
Last week: 5-2 (3-2 ACC)
TOTAL: 57-21 (27-15 ACC)
NC State (6-4, 3-3) at No. 11 Clemson (9-1, 6-1), 3:30 PM, ABC/ESPN2)
NC State senior quarterback Mike Glennon is able to fit passes through seemingly non-existent holes in the defense, but his wide receivers have dropped a lot of passes in the last three games and much of the season.
Glennon has insisted that the drops don’t bother him, and he can’t let it – as his head coach Tom O’Brien said, if he doesn’t get rid of the ball quickly, he’ll get killed. He doesn’t have time to wonder if a guy is going to catch the ball; he just has to let it go.
“A couple guys who had the drops made some good catches early (against Wake Forest),” O’Brien said. “I said this to two of the guys on the sidelines: ‘You guys drop the easy balls and you make hard catches, so we’re just going to have to get you in tough positions because your concentration level must be higher’.”
O’Brien won’t admit it, but he has to feel that way on some level about his team in general the last three seasons, particularly this one. The Wolfpack will drop a ball that’s right in their hands (the Virginia game at home with the Atlantic Division still up for grabs), but then make a Randy Moss-like grab in triple coverage (like beating Florida State).
Under O’Brien, NC State is 8-5 against top-25 teams (2-0 against the top 10) and 31-29 in all other games against unranked foes. The Wolfpack started out 4-4 last year but went 4-1 in its final five games with wins over North Carolina, Clemson and Maryland. And even in that Maryland game, it wasn’t easy: they had to overcome a huge deficit.
But his team, like his wide-receiving corps, thrives when things aren’t easy. And going to Death Valley to face an uber-talented Clemson team is far from it. “I don’t think that this team will be intimidated or afraid to go let everything go in this football game,” O’Brien said. “We’re in a situation, we’ve got a lot to play for, and you always want to be challenged. Challenge yourself and if Clemson’s the best or near the best in the conference, let’s go see what we can do.”
NC State’s dismantling of Wake Forest last week only seemed to make the 33-6 loss to Virginia the previous week that much more frustrating for the players. Even they seem to recognize that seemingly different teams show up from game to game, and they never seem to know which one is coming.
“Last week, we had a great team win and everything but we want to be able to do that consistently, week in and week out,” cornerback Dontae Johnson said. “Our next opponent is Clemson and hopefully, the NC State team that showed up last week will be ready to play again this week.”
Even from quarter to quarter, the Wolfpack can look like a different team. NC State has given up 97 first-quarter points and 126 in the other three quarters combined this year. At times, the first-quarter holes have been too deep.
“We can’t be the two different teams like we’ve been showing. We’ve go to be able to play consistently all four quarters. We can’t come out hot, then die in the second quarter and then come play in the third quarter,” left guard R.J. Mattes said. “We’ve got to play a straight four quarters. We can’t let the foot of the gas if we’re ahead and we can’t give up if we’re behind. We’ve just got to keep playing our game and executing our offense and defense the way it’s drawn up.”
The protean Wolfpack does seem to consistently show up against ranked opponents; they’ve beaten four of the last five top 25 teams they’ve faced. But none of those games have been on the road. The only top-25 road game NC State has won under O’Brien was at No. 25 North Carolina in 2008.
Clemson is more than capable of beating NC State on talent alone, even if the best possible NC State squad shows up in Death Valley on Saturday. But Mattes and the Wolfpack know that squad has to make the trip, or else they’ll be in danger of getting blown out. And they’ve still just won one division road game under O’Brien, a narrow win at Maryland this year.
“When we’re playing a top-25 team like Clemson, we’re always going to come out ready. It’s motivation because you can’t come out dead against a team like that, otherwise you’ll just get stomped,” Mattes said. “So we’ve got to come out ready like we did against Florida State and hopefully play good on all cylinders and win the game.”
Moments in NC State-Clemson history: Every year since 1971, the schools have met in the Textile Bowl (it has a trophy and everything), but the series dates back to 1899. Clemson had won seven in a row – the longest streak by either team – before NC State snapped that last year with a 37-13 win at home. Clemson leads the all-time series 51-28-1 (22-11 at home). The Tigers have won 12 straight home games dating back to last season, which is a school record for consecutive home wins.
Tobais Palmer scores a 43-yard touchdown to put NC State up 37-6 on Clemson last year.
Our very own Jeff Gravley of WRAL did this classic 80′s montage of the 1987 NC State-Clemson game (State won, 30-28). “WE PLAY FOR KEEPS!”
Look who’s in town, you guys! It’s Clemson Tom! “Your stadium’s gray, like your soul.”
In the name of equal time, this is Clemson Tom a year ago after the loss to NC State.
This is what Dabo Swinney said after the 2009 win over NC State. Tweet that.
Prediction: NC State, 41-34. Because I just don’t know anymore.
Boston College (1-1) vs. Dayton (1-1), 2:30 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)
What to watch: BC’s three-point shooting. The Eagles got going from three somewhat against Baylor, hitting 10-of-26 (38.5%), but they’ve made just 27.9% on the year. Meanwhile, their opponents have made 21-of-50 (42%). BC can’t afford to continue to be outscored like that from three.
Random Dayton facts: Dayton is coached by former NC State point guard Archie Miller. But the Flyer mascot – whose name is Rudy Flyer – comes from that whole thing where Ohio thinks they were first in flight just because the Wright Brothers are from there and built the plane there. Okay, that’s fine I guess. But the flight thing happened in North Carolina, so let’s get that part straight.
Prediction: Boston College, 75-66.
No. 6 NC State (2-0) vs. Massachusetts (2-0), 5:00 PM, ESPN2/U/3 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
What to watch: The running game. Both of these teams are fine with going up-tempo, and that should keep NC State engaged on both ends. The Wolfpack got out to a big lead last night but seemed to lose interest defensively late in the game, per their head coach, in a slow-paced affair. Massachusetts will have to be wary of when they run against NC State, because if they try to out-run the Wolfpack, they’ll lose. UMass creates more possessions with pressure defense (at times full-court), so NC State will have to make good decisions.
Chaz Williams versus Lorenzo Brown. Brown will be nearly half a foot taller than the diminutive UMass point guard, but Williams has never let size get in the way. The junior averaged 16.9 points and 6.2 assists last season and he’s up to 7.5 assists this year. Like Brown, he’s a good rebounder (4.4 a game last year, 5.0 this year). Also like Brown, he’ll turn it over from time to time but has a knack for getting steals. Brown became a much better defender last season, but this will be his biggest challenge yet on both sides of the ball.
Random UMass facts: You’d think that UMass would have been the Minutemen for most of its history, but no – they were the Redmen until 1972.
Prediction: NC State, 89-71.
Wake Forest (1-0) vs. No. 23/UR Connecticut (2-0), 6:30 PM, CBS SN (Paradise Jam)
What to watch: Turnovers. Wake Forest shot 64% against Radford in their season-opening win, but only won by 12 points, in large part because they turned it over 18 times. Radford had 22 of their 67 points off of Wake’s turnovers. UConn has made opponents pay for turnovers, turning 31 turnovers into 39 points in two games. This isn’t a great matchup for Wake anyway, and they can’t afford to give away possessions.
Random Connecticut facts: UConn decided to get a mascot in the 1930s because they were inspired by a story of Rhode Island’s ram mascot being kidnapped. The husky was selected by a student poll. Jonathan IV was notoriously feisty: he once bit Yale’s bulldog mascot on the nose and would growl when an opposing basketball team scored on UConn.
Prediction: Connecticut, 75-69.
Clemson (1-0) at Furman, (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The Clemson freshmen. Four saw at least 16 minutes, and three of them combined for 26 points in 57 minutes. Last year, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell couldn’t trust his freshmen for extended minutes. He may not have a choice this year, so this young group is going to have to come along quickly.
Random Furman facts: For awhile, the Furman football team was “the Hurricane” and the baseball team was the Hornets. Only the basketball team was the Paladins, and they were dubbed that by a sportswriter. It was adopted for all teams in 1961.
Prediction: Clemson, 76-57.
Florida State (1-1) vs. BYU (2-0), 7:00 PM, TruTV (Coaches vs. Cancer)
What to watch: Florida State’s defense. According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida State’s defense is 48th in the country. That’s a respectable ranking for most, but not a team like Florida State that’s perennially in the top 10. BYU is more than capable of putting up very good offensive numbers, so FSU is going to have to get this fixed, and quickly. The Seminoles have allowed 72 points per game to two subpar teams on 46% shooting and 47% from three.
Random BYU facts: It’s still Hammer Time at BYU, evidently. But the Cosmo the Cougar, can break it down.
Prediction: BYU, 82-71.
Jacksonville (1-1) at Miami (1-1), 7:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Miami looks to go 2-1 against the Atlantic Sun. That’s right – their first three opponents are from the Atlantic Sun. Miami struggled with Stetson and lost to Florida Gulf Coast because they couldn’t defend them inside the arc (40 points in the paint) or on the backboards (the Canes were out-rebounded 40-32). Starting shooting guard Durand Scott will serve the final game of his suspension against Jacksonville, and he had nothing to do with either of those ugly stats from the Miami loss.
Random Jacksonville facts: The dolphin became the official mascot in 1947, and a 59-year-old live dolphin – Nellie – is the live mascot (she lives in St. Augustine).
Prediction: Miami, 83-75.
Long Island (0-2) at Maryland (1-1), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Long Island is an up-tempo team that thrives on getting to the foul line, and the Blackbirds are as good of a team as Maryland will see before the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The Terps were sloppy at times against Morehead State, and they can’t afford to let down too much in this one.
Random Long Island facts: Long Island used to be known as the Blue Devils, but then they dressed all in black and a local reporter wrote they reminded him of a blackbird.
Prediction: Maryland, 84-68.
No. 11 North Carolina (2-0) at Long Beach State (1-1), 11:05 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: How will the young Tar Heels handle the road? Carolina has looked good at times and shaky at others. Now, they’ll be in a very difficult environment facing a team coming off of a program-changing season a year ago. The 49ers are not going to just roll over for UNC, and they’ll have to tough their way through it.
Random Long Beach State facts: They’re the 49ers, but the baseball team doesn’t use this mascot. Instead, they’ve dubbed themselves the Dirtbags. It stems from 1989, when the lack of a field meant infielders often had to use a local all-dirt Pony League field to practice, thus rejoining their teammates covered in dirt. And that’s easily the most flattering definition of dirtbag ever.
Oh, and also, Long Beach State has a senior guard named Peter Poppageorge. They could dominate an all-name team tournament: Branford Jones, Deng Deng, Gatete Djuma?
Prediction: North Carolina, 75-64.
Last week’s picks: 10-2
Boston College (1-0) vs. No. 16/17 Baylor (2-0), 3:00 PM, ESPNU (Charleston Classic)
What to watch: Last year, BC didn’t play any opponent as good as Baylor until they traveled to North Carolina for their ACC opener. This year, they get an athletic, talented Baylor team in Game 2. No one should reasonably expect them to win, but they could keep it respectable.
Random Baylor facts: In 1914, the bear just beat out mascots like buffalo, antelope and bookworm in a University vote. They’ve had live bear mascots since 1917.
Prediction: Baylor, 92-74.
No. 6 NC State (1-0) vs. Penn State (1-0), 5:00 PM, ESPN2 (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)
What to watch: Foul trouble. Against a decent opponent, it’s possible NC State will have a few guys pick up a few early fouls. Who does Mark Gottfried trust to come in and give the Wolfpack good minutes? We’re going to start finding that out this week.
Random Penn State facts: In the 1920′s, when Penn State first had a costumed mascot, they went with the African lion look (see above) instead of today’s style (which is an actual mountain lion).
Prediction: NC State, 85-63.
VMI (1-2) at Virginia Tech (2-0), 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: A high-possession VMI team against a Virginia Tech squad that’s looking to go up-tempo this year? (Grabs popcorn.)
Random VMI facts: Some VMI cheerleaders thought that a kangaroo would be a cool mascot, so they got a live one in 1947. In 1954, Virginia Tech (then VPI) students kidnapped Moe before their game against VMI and in retaliation, they kidnapped a VPI freshman. Both were released onto the field at the football game. So awesome.
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 102-79.
Last week: 11-1
Wake Forest (5-4, 3-4) at NC State (5-4, 2-3), 3:00 PM, RSN
Wake Forest and NC State are both a win away from securing bowl eligibility. But NC State in particular has bigger problems right now.Even with a few days to think about it, on Monday NC State head coach Tom O’Brien still seemed puzzled as to what happened to his team last week in a 33-6 loss at home to Virginia.
“Somewhere between Thursday and Saturday, something changed. You talk to the offensive coaches, they thought they had a really good week of practice. There was enthusiasm. They were sharp,” O’Brien said. “But then we went out a lot of guys on offense didn’t play very well. That’s as bad as we’ve played I think offensively all year.”
The Wolfpack offense has started to sputter mostly because of everyone around quarterback Mike Glennon. His wide receivers are still dropping passes, he’s getting hit seemingly every other play and there’s no running game to complement the passing attack. That’s the biggest thing NC State needs to fix right now. NC State has one rushing touchdown in five ACC games, the fewest in the league. While Wake Forest has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns in seven league games, the Deacons are fourth in league-only rush defense.
“We definitely have to pick it up in the running game. The past weeks, we haven’t done so good,” running back Tony Creecy said. “Missing (guard) Zach Allen has been a key part to this, but it can’t be the only thing we have to depend on. Zach Allen was a great blocker, and we have other great blockers. Myself, I have to pick it up more. I have do better on my reads. I have to run the ball tougher. With that, we’re going to do better in the run game.”
But NC State’s defense has been guilty, too. In the first quarter of its last two games, opponents have gouged the Wolfpack defense on at least one trick play. “It’s definitely frustrating when we continue to let those type of plays work against us early in the game but by now, it’s out there that teams are going to try something early,” senior safety Brandon Bishop said. “If we continue to allow them to have success then they’re going to continue to show up early in games. So we’ve got to be prepared and we’ve got to know what assignments are and just execute and make sure that we don’t give up those big plays.”
NC State can’t reach ten wins (in the regular season), can’t win a de facto state championship and are all but out of the Atlantic Division. O’Brien is going to have a difficult task on his hands to try to get this team motivated to play out the string. “I’ve been along and seen a lot of wins, seen a lot of losses, good wins and good losses,” O’Brien said, “but it still comes back to my convincing them that this is what they have to get done and that we have to get it done, get their minds right and get them focused on the things that are important for them to have success this week. Then they’ve got to believe in it and they have to do it.”
Moments in Wake Forest-NC State history: North Carolina-Virginia might be the oldest rivalry in the South, but the Wake Forest-NC State series is the longest continuous one in the ACC (every year since 1910). The first time they played was in 1895 in Raleigh, and the result was a 4-4 tie. (#goacc). Wake has won five of the last seven in the series, but NC State has won two of the last four. Wake trails the all-time series at NC State, 19-33-4.
Riley Skinner breaks down NC State’s crossing routes:
Watch this video, try not to listen to the names and glance at the dates and tell me what year it’s from.
I wonder if this NC State fan will be putting his face in “bananna pudding”(sic) this week.
Prediction: NC State, 34-24. Obviously, the Wolfpack should win this game easily. But you could have said the same last week (and I did). Wake Forest has gotten its passing attack going again since wide receiver Michael Campanaro returned two weeks ago, passing for 532 yards in the last two weeks. Since beating Florida State, NC State’s defense has let up 1,478 yards in three games (492.7 per game). Wake has just 580 yards in three road games (193.3), but State can’t take that for granted. They have to come out better than they did last week. Wake head coach Jim Grobe had to be licking his chops watching North Carolina and Virginia come out and torch the Wolfpack with trick plays early. He’s got plenty in his arsenal, and if NC State isn’t careful it will find itself trailing early yet again.
Stetson at Miami, 5:30 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Miami’s big men. Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji combined for 39 minutes, ten shot attempts, five free-throw attempts, five rebounds and eight turnovers in the Hurricanes’ exhibition loss to Saint Leo. It goes without saying that can’t become a trend.
Random Stetson facts: The Hatter mascot recently got a makeover, since the previous Mad Hatter with “crazy Doc Brown hair and large teeth” scared the children. Now, it’s this guy:
Prediction: Miami, 78-63.
Gardner-Webb at No. 11 North Carolina, 7:00 PM, RSN
What to watch: Marcus Paige. The freshman point guard is going to be the guy this year for North Carolina no matter how he plays. So he’s going to need to play better than he did in Carolina’s exhibition against Shaw (six points, 2-of-7 shooting, one assist and three turnovers). He’s going to have some growing pains, but he needs to start gaining some confidence.
Random Gardner-Webb facts: I suppose Gardner-Webb’s version of the Bulldog – the “Runnin” Bulldog – differentiates it somewhat from the 7,500 other schools that use it. He does give dancing tours of campus, so there is that.
Prediction: North Carolina, 87-63.
Georgia State at No. 8 Duke, 7:00 PM, ESPNU
What to watch: Duke’s offense. Georgia State was one of the best defensive teams in the country last year. Though the Panthers lost four of five starters, Duke’s offense has struggled some in the exhibition season and this game should be an indicator of where Duke really is offensively. Duke has potential to be a very good offensive team, but they lack a true scorer. Who – if anyone – can step up to fill that role, or will it be a team effort?
Random Georgia State facts: Georgia State chose the Panther mascot supposedly based on the Florida Panther, which was once native to Georgia. Of course it was.
Prediction: Duke, 84-62.
Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 NC State, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: NC State’s rotation. Even in an exhibition game, NC State played nine people ten or more minutes and just seven played over 15 minutes. Jordan Vandenberg and Thomas de Thaey were thought to be rotation players in the post, but they saw a combined 25 minutes of action. NC State needs them to be productive, but head coach Mark Gottfried won’t play them just for the sake of having depth. Their minutes tonight should indicate how much he trusts them right now.
Random Miami (Ohio) facts: The RedHawks were actually the Redskins up until 1997, when they changed hteir name. Of course, the original nickname in 1928 was “Big Red-Skinned Warriors”. Oops. “RedHawk” was chosen over “the Miamis” and the ThunderHawks”. The Miami’s?
Prediction: NC State, 94-75.
Radford at Wake Forest, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: The Wake Forest freshmen. Codi Miller-McIntyre, Tyler Cavanaugh and Devin Thomas will all start tonight, and plenty of other freshmen will see time. Radford is far from a juggernaut, but a convincing Wake Forest win might mean that the youngsters are ready to at least make Wake competitive.
Random Radford facts: The Highlander is a reference to Radford’s Scottish heritage. But I prefer to think it is a reference to this classic (HAPPY HALLOWEEN, LADIES!):
Prediction: Wake Forest, 76-61.
South Alabama at No. 25 Florida State, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Florida State’s turnovers. It’s always been an issue for the Seminoles, even against lesser opponents. In two exhibition games, Florida State had 25 assists to 33 turnovers, and starting point guard Ian Miller had eight turnovers. FSU has to cut back on that this year because they have less of a margin for error on both ends of the floor right now.
Random South Alabama facts: A few years ago, the USA cheerleaders were asked to stop leading a popular cheer after made free throws, which was, “USA, South in your mouth!” By all indications, they still do it.
Prediction: Florida State, 77-59.
Tulane at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Um, how about if Georgia Tech wins? The Yellow Jackets were so bad last year that they lost games like this – in fact, they literally did lose this game at Tulane a year ago, 57-52. Ken Pomeroy has Tulane 110th in his preseason rankings, and this is no gimme. But if Georgia Tech is even going to be decent this year, they need to win this one.
Random Tulane facts: Tulane was known as the “Greenbacks” and the “Greenies” before the “Green Wave” nickname stuck in the 1920′s. The pelican riding the wave had been used as a symbol in the past, but so had Gumby. The pelican stuck in 1998.
Prediction: Georgia Tech, 65-57.
Virginia at George Mason, 7:00 PM
What to watch: Virginia’s freshmen. The Cavaliers, because of injuries and suspensions, are going to be starting three freshmen (Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey and Taylor Barnette). Barnette will have to run the point guard against a pretty good opponent, and he doesn’t have any experience.
Random George Mason facts: George Mason really experimented with its mascots over the years. They still use the Patriot, and they also use this….thing named Gunston:
Prediction: George Mason, 61-53.
No. 3 Kentucky vs. Maryland, 8:30 PM, ESPN (Brooklyn, NY)
What to watch: Dez Wells. Maryland was projected to have a good year anyway, but the announcement on Wednesday that Wells won his NCAA appeal and would be immediately eligible changed the Terrapins’ expectations. It’s too early to judge how good they will be based on how they play against the defending national champs, but his impact should be obvious tonight.
Random Kentucky facts: Kentucky has three mascots: The Wildcat (a student), Scratch (a kid-friendly version) and a live Bobcat named Blue. They used to have a live mascot at games, but that stopped about 50 years ago. Here’s the Wikipedia quote about today’s Blue:
▪ Blue — A live bobcat (note that in American English, “wildcat” generally refers to this particular mammal). He lives at the state-operated Salato Wildlife Education Center near the state capital of Frankfort. Unlike the school’s two costumed mascots, he never attends games, because bobcats are very shy by nature and do not react well with large crowds.
Prediction: Kentucky, 79-64.
East Tennessee State at Virginia Tech, 2:00 PM, ESPN3
What to watch: Virginia Tech’s offense. Despite a ridiculously thin roster, first-year head coach James Johnson has said that he wants to push the tempo. I suppose anything is faster than the offense Seth Greenberg ran, but it seems like an odd choice considering his personnel. It will be interesting to see how it looks.
Random East Tennessee State facts: Here was the description given to Pepper the Parrot:
“Once upon a time, on one of the deserted Canary Island, there lived a giant parrot named Pepper. Like most parrots, he had aspirations of playing in the NBA and perhaps having his own line of breakfast cereals. But the big bird had one problem. He wanted to make people happy, but there were no people where he lived. So Pepper packed his suitcase and left his island home. As he flew across the ocean, he was swept up in a hurricane. Pepper, being the strong parrot that he is, fought the storm. Finally, though, he became exhausted and was forced to land. He fell asleep on a sandy beach. When he awoke, he saw a rainbow in the sky. He followed the rainbow to its end at ETSU’s blue and yellow Memorial Center. Since that fateful day, Buccaneer fans have laughed and cheered with Pepper, making him a very happy bird.”
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 72-59.
Lindsay Funke: You’ll never be able to pull this off, Michael. You’re the good guy. This isn’t you.
Michael: It’s me now, Lindsay. It’s the me that can recline.
[he leans back and hits his head on the railing]
Lindsay Funke: I’m saying every time something starts to go well for you, you blow it.
Tobias Fünke: Nothing has ever gone well for me, and you know that.
NC State has not been the favorite in quite some time, and whenever it had a semblance of preseason hype, the team has fallen flat on its face (see 2008). In the fan base, a phenomenon of NC State….stuff has arisen: the concept that what can go wrong, will go wrong, in all sports. And sometimes, things no one would even think could go wrong, go wrong. Sheer terror has gripped NC State fans as they see that their team is the prohibitive favorite to win the league.
2012 record/results: 24-13 overall, 9-7 ACC, No. 11 seed in NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16 (L to No. 2 seed Kansas). Yes, NC State lost 13 games last year. But they lost to just two teams all season that finished outside Pomeroy’s top 50, and 11 of their 13 losses were to top-33 teams (eight to the top 20).
Reason for optimism: As the Wolfpack bought into what then first-year head coach Mark Gottfried was selling, they became a better defensive team by the end of the year and won six of their final eight games. Their only two losses were to top-10 teams North Carolina and Kansas, by a combined five points. Oh, and they return pretty much their entire core from last year: four of five starters, including point guard Lorenzo Brown, who should complete the transition he began last year from very good to elite.
Reason for pessimism: There’s little depth on this team, and the depth they do have they’re not likely to use. Big men Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie are still going to pick up questionable fouls, and when those one or both have to sit down, freshman T.J. Warren could come in along with…Thomas de Thaey? Jordan Vandenberg? Both are unproven, and not as good as last year’s go-to big man sub DeShawn Painter, who transferred. Senior small forward Scott Wood is the only reliable three-point shooter on the team, and he has struggled to get off his shot against more athletic defenders. Who else can make outside shots if he’s not hitting?
Michael: Maybe we were better off with me being businesslike and you being the good time useless party guy.
Gob: It got us this far. And I must say I miss the laughter. Oh God, how they used to laugh with me.
Michael: AT you. We have to figure out a way to hire everybody back. A meeting.
Gob: A party.
Michael: No, we just had a party.
Gob: Yeah but I didn’t get to have any fun.
Gob: [arms crossed] Then there’s me. The joker. The goofball. The magician.
[quickly makes a magician's gesture with his hands]
Michael: I thought you were gonna do a little fireball there.
Gob: I was. It didn’t go off.
I have no idea why those quotes work for Virginia. They just do.
2012 record/results: 22-10 overall, 9-7 ACC, No. 10 seed in NCAA Tournament, First Round (L to No. 7 seed Florida). Virginia began the season 15-2 with one of their losses being a close one at Duke that convinced everyone the Cavaliers were for real. But they finished the season 7-8.
Reason for optimism: Head coach Tony Bennett will have Virginia playing pesky defense, as usual. UVa lost Mike Scott, who was one of the best players in the ACC last year, but they still have two starters left (wing Joe Harris and point guard Jontel Evans). Harris was always steady, but Evans had some very encouraging offensive performances last year. Bennett has brought in six freshmen, at least three of which should make a contribution.
Reason for pessimism: Scott was Virginia’s go-to guy last year. The only even semi-proven player on this roster is Harris, and even he averaged just 9.8 points in ACC play. Evans was far from consistent: somehow, he averaged 10.8 points in four games against FSU and UNC, but 7.6 against other ACC opponents. Akil Mitchell will have to replace Scott, and he found himself frequently in foul trouble last year. Through a combination of graduation and transfers, Virginia is dangerously thin.
Michael: You want to be in charge?
Michael: You want to deal with what I deal with? A sister who takes your money and throws it away. A mother who you can’t trust. A company whose founder may be on trial for treason. Is that what you want?
Gob: What kind of vacation time does it offer?
Lucille: The company is in danger.
Michael: What tipped you off? The falling profit margins or the fact that we’re a regular feature on Bill O’Reilly’s most ridiculous item of the day?
Gob: I’ve made a huge mistake.
Former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg was on the hot seat, and his assistant coaches were jumping ship. On their way out, they gave exit interviews to Virginia Tech. James Johnson, who left to take the top assistant job at Clemson last year, was no different. Two months later, he was hired as the head coach at Virginia Tech to replace Greenberg, who supposedly (according to the aforementioned exit interviews) didn’t create a “family atmosphere” for his staff. Interesting. You wanted to be the boss, James Johnson? Well, good luck. I wonder if either he or the Virginia Tech administration thinks they’ve made a huge mistake yet.
2012 record/results: 16-17 overall, 4-12 ACC. The Hokies were 11-3 entering ACC season before the wheels fell off. They lost 12 games by fewer than ten points. Even their four ACC wins were decided by a total of six points.
Reason for optimism: Point guard Erick Green is a special player, and there is some experience around him. In fact, Virginia Tech will only have one scholarship freshman. Forward Cadarian Raines got a lot better last year, and neither Robert Brown nor Jarrell Eddie have been shy about trying to carry some of the scoring load. Their starting five is as good as any, but…
Reason for pessimism: …if any of them have to come out of the game for any reason – injury, foul trouble, anything – the Hokies will be in big trouble. There are only eight scholarship players on the roster. And the ones behind the starting five either aren’t very good, are unproven, or both.
Tobias Fünke: Come on, Lindsay. We’ve had some great times.
[a white screen appears with text reading: "Footage not found."]
Michael: I burned it. Down to the ground.
George Sr.: There was money in that banana stand.
Michael: Well, it’s all gone now.
George Sr.: There was $250,000 lining the inside walls of the banana stand.
George Sr.: Cash, Michael. What the hell did you think I meant when I said…
George Sr.: [yells] There is money… in… the banana stand.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik could make Ron Wellman look smart after all. It didn’t seem like a good hire three years ago, and the timing was strange considering former head coach Dino Gaudio had just made the NCAA Tournament. It seemed like an even worse hire when Bzdelik won just one ACC game in 2011 and showed just slight improvement last year with a 13-18 record. Wake Forest fans have had to cope with some pretty bad basketball along the way, and they’re still trying to rekindle fan interest. If Bzdelik’s freshman class is as advertised, though, it shouldn’t take long.
2011 record/results: 13-18 overall, 4-12 ACC. About the only good thing you can say about last year’s Wake Forest team is that it finished the non-conference schedule 9-5 with just two embarrassing losses (Arizona State and Wofford). Half of their ACC wins were against BC.
Reason for optimism: C.J. Harris and Travis McKie are one of the best returning duos in the country. And they might just finally have some help this year, particularly McKie, from a very highly-touted freshman class. Also, it can’t get worse for the Deacons than it’s been the last few years. Even if Wake struggles, the freshmen are good enough to start winning back the hearts and minds of Wake fans as they finally have a reason for hope.
Reason for pessimism: It’s essentially Harris, McKie, sophomore sharp-shooter Chase Fischer and a gang of freshmen at this point. McKie and Harris are great players, but it’s impossible to know how the freshmen will play on a given night. So, maybe it can get worse – at least before it gets better. They’re going to start a freshman at point guard (Codi Miller-McIntyre). Ken Pomeroy only has the Deacs projected for nine wins this year.
Virginia (2-6, 0-4) at NC State (5-3, 2-2), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
Last year when NC State’s basketball team soundly thumped Wake Forest, the Deacons’ head coach Jeff Bzdelik said after the game that without a few double-digit runs by the Wolfpack (runs of 12-0, 20-4, 13-2 and 11-2), Wake Forest would have won by 19 points. And now whenever a team is getting blown out, Bzdelik’s name is used a reference point.
In NC State football’s case, though, the runs they have allowed early in games – particularly in losses – have put them in holes that are ultimately too big to climb out of. While it might sound silly to say that the Wolfpack would have won if they had played better in all the first quarters of all their losses, it’s sort of true in their case.
NC State’s 14 points against North Carolina were the most it has put up in the first quarter against an FBS opponent this year. The problem is, North Carolina put up 25 points, the most NC State has allowed in the first quarter all year. In three losses, NC State has let up 70 first-quarter points while scoring 28.
In its three FBS wins, NC State hasn’t scored any first-quarter points, but they’ve allowed just six. In the second, third and fourth quarters combined of their three losses, they’ve outscored opponents 65-52, but it hasn’t been enough. In three wins, they’ve outscored opponents 47-35 – almost the same margin – in the other three quarters. That first-quarter defense is what made the difference.
NC State head coach Tom O’Brien doesn’t have the answers for the slow starts. “Not ready to play, that’s something that we’ve talked about, we’re going to emphasize and make sure – sometimes, it’s easier to do it when you’re at home,” O’Brien said. “That speaks to maturity and that speaks to experience in a lot of cases when you’re on the road.”
NC State is back at home for the first time since its October 6th. But the team is still smarting from their first loss to arch-rival North Carolina in five years that came on a game-winning punt return by Giovani Bernard. And it was a costly for other reasons. NC State controlled the Atlantic Division after upsetting Florida State, but now they have to hope the Seminoles lose another one if they want to win the division. Last week still stings, but O’Brien wants his team to be angry about.
“Guys finally were starting to get angry (on Sunday) and start taking accountability in meetings for some of the things that have been happening, which is good. That translates onto the field,” O’Brien said. “Even though we’ve lost the hammer, we haven’t lost anything in the fact that we still have to play because you have to make Florida State win seven games. And if they don’t win seven games, then we’re right back there.”
Quarterback Mike Glennon would have a right to be angry. NC State is 0-2 when he’s had 400-yard passing days, and he tied an NC State record with five touchdowns last week. And he did all that despite his receivers dropping anywhere from eight to ten well-thrown balls. He said it was more a sense of frustration at letting wins slip away than it was anger.
Senior linebacker Sterling Lucas, who is doing all he can to lead a group of inexperienced linebackers and encourage the defense as a whole to forget about mistakes, said the team can’t dwell on last week. “From a competitive standpoint, guys obviously want to win. I don’t know if it’s anger, but I know guys just want to win. Maybe emotions show through that,” Lucas said.
“Our morale is pretty high. Obviously, we wanted to win the game. It was a big game, big rivalry game, but we believe in the next game up. You don’t want to allow that past game to beat us this upcoming game. I believe that the morale is pretty high. Everyone still has confidence in the team. We had our opportunities to win. When we go back and watch film, we see that we had plenty of opportunities. We just have to make plays on both the defensive side of the ball as well as the offensive side of the ball.”
Virginia has also had slow starts lately: in their last two games, the Cavaliers have been outscored 24-0 in the first quarter by Maryland and Wake Forest, then outscored them 30-19 the rest of the way. On the road all season, the Cavaliers have been outscored 125-44 in three games. And 20 of those points came against a bad Georgia Tech defense.
But the Cavaliers have had plenty of issues in general. They’ve lost six in a row after a 2-0 start, and their only hope is that they were able to fix their offensive problems during the bye week. A quarterback controversy between Alabama transfer Phillip Sims and veteran Michael Rocco is only a controversy because neither have been great, though Sims has been marginally better.
The Cavaliers desperately need a win, but so does NC State. “This is a back against the wall game for both of us and we’ve got to be ready to come and play,” O’Brien said. “Thank goodness we’re at home and we get our fans out there and play the way we can play. One of the goals is to stay undefeated at home and we need to accomplish that if we want to accomplish the goals that we have to get done.”
O’Brien, whose teams generally don’t hurt themselves, seemed as puzzled as anyone else how inconsistent his team can look from quarter to quarter. Even the game-winning punt return for North Carolina last week was as much a lack of special teams discipline for NC State as it was Giovani Bernard’s punt-returning skills.
NC State had its best win of the year against Florida State on October 6th. They were coming off a loss at Miami, and they played like a team in need of a win. Before that game, safety Earl Wolff said the team called a meeting and hashed out some issues, basically asking for everyone to declare themselves in or out. There’s been no talk of that this week, but O’Brien alluded for the need for his players to take ownership of this team’s success.
“We can get as angry as we want, and certainly we’re angry at certain things. But until it comes from the team, until they learn how to take control of the team, you can’t be in a championship mode to get there,” O’Brien said. “That’s where the difference is – you take that step from being a good to great team.”
Moments in Virginia-NC State history: There have been some close ones in the series history, but two of the most memorable games could not be more different. In 2003, NC State won 51-37 at home in a game that pitted Philip Rivers against Matt Schaub, two veteran NFL starters. But in 1944, at a neutral site in Norfolk, NC State won 13-0 in the rain despite not making a first down the entire game and gaining just ten yards of total offense. It was an NCAA record for the fewest yards by a winning team and one of just two games in FBS history where a winning team failed to get a first down. The defense won that classic by recovering two Virginia fumbles in the end zone.
Since Virginia is at NC State this time, we’ll miss videos like this one! Crazy Cavman.
Bryan Underwood provided the offensive highlight from last year’s game with this touchdown (TOB was not happy with him afterwards). And it’s a part of a fan video about officiating. Naturally. (Although it doesn’t appear the guy is complaining.)
Also, I believe this guy should be angry at the now famous pole-dancing NC State fan, as he seems to have invented the drunk, shirtless, fat guy dancing thing against Virginia in 2008:
Hamster Race fail:
Prediction: NC State, 34-16. Virginia might be coming off a bye week, but the Cavaliers have also lost six straight and will be playing at an NC State team which is home for the first time in nearly a month, and plenty angry after losing to a rival.
NC State (5-2, 2-1) at North Carolina (5-3, 2-2), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner might be fiery on the field, but he is still the son of a football coach. And his answers – even during the week leading up to North Carolina’s biggest rivalry game of the year against NC State – reflected that. Turner Walston, a Tar Heel Monthly magazine editor and GoHeels.com writer, has covered Renner for a long time. So he decided to press Renner (playfully) for a bit more candor.
TW: Bryn, be honest.
BR: Gotcha. I always am.
TW: You can’t go to a bowl game.
BR: That’s correct. I’m aware of that.
TW: The ACC has said even if you’re top in Coastal, you can’t win it.
TW: The state championship is out the window.
BR: That’s correct.
If you’re going to salvage something from this season, the fans want you to beat NC State.
BR: Absolutely. (Sees teammates walking by. Waves at them, stalling for time, leans over in his chair to say something to them.) Hey guys! (Laughs nervously.) Yeah, you know. It’s sad to say, but I just don’t buy into all that stuff. I know it’s cliched and you guys are going to think I’m lying, but -
(Andrew Carter of the News and Observer): We think you’re a coach’s son.
BR: I am, but it just comes – it’s how I was raised. You’ve got to prepare for every game like it’s going to be NC State or it’s going to be whoever you guys want it to be. Whoever you guys want us to play, I’m so focused on what we have to do as an offense, that’s my main focus. How can we get the ball in the end zone for us to win games? I sound like a broken record. We could play the frickin’ Bears or the best defense in the league, the 49ers. We could go be playing them and I want to focus on how can we as an offense put the ball in the end zone.
And NC State head coach Tom O’Brien – who has been a responder during game-week and an instigator afterwards during this five-game winning streak – wasn’t biting, either. He and Raleigh News and Observer beat writer Joe Giglio always provide entertaining banter, but other reporters pressed him about the rivalry, too. And he did nothing but either praise the Tar Heels and their coaching staff or carefully dodge potential minefield-type questions.
He was reminded that in the off-season, North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora said at a booster event that he didn’t want to “legitimize” NC State. Normally the type of comment that would provoke at least a subtle jab from O’Brien, he only said: “That’s like recruiting rhetoric – it’s the same thing that happens in rival games. You just forget about it and move on. It doesn’t mean a lot.”
So both teams are left to pump themselves up for this game. Of course, that hasn’t been an issue for NC State. But under former head coach Butch Davis, UNC was thought to be taking the game too lightly – or, at least, not as seriously as their neighbors up I-40. Davis often refused to recognize the significance of the game. North Carolina fans would often blame that attitude for the losses.
But Renner seemed to take offense to that notion. “Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. We know how we prepare and how we want to play. I think if you’re a fan … you’re always going to have your opinion against the other person. So I think that’s where everybody voices their opinions from and it’s based on that. But as far as do we not take it as (seriously), (does NC State) take it more personally, I don’t think that’s the case. I think we really look forward to playing them. They’re a very good opponent. Right down the street from us, so we always want to play our best when we play them.”
Fedora isn’t taking any chances, though. He decorates the Carolina locker room with NC State paraphernalia on Sunday immediately after Carolina’s disappointing 33-30 loss to Duke. Posters of NC State celebrating wins, the Wolfpack schedule, even red and white ribbons (“it looked like almost like he went to party city and put up all the flyers and the big hoopla,” Renner said). When told about it, O’Brien got as controversial as he would get all week, and that was with a joke: “I mean, I wasn’t over there. I was flying back, so I don’t know who did it.”
NC State is on a two-game winning streak with a win over a top-five Florida State team and their first Atlantic Division road win a week ago at Maryland. North Carolina is coming off of a 33-30 loss at Duke, its third this season by five points or less. Carolina is 1-3 in those games while NC State is 3-1 in close games.
NC State safety Earl Wolff is never at a loss for words, and even he was low-key about the rivalry. For the most part. “I just feel like if we come out and play with that same intensity we played with last year, a lot of people say we’re not really road warriors, we’re not really that good on the road, but if you can’t get hype for the Carolina game then you shouldn’t even walk on the field that day,” Wolff said. “That’s how we feel. That’s how everybody feels. So we’re just going to try to stop them, stop their offense and win that game.”
If it sounds simple, it’s been just that simple for NC State in recent years. It’s an uphill battle for the Tar Heels, who have lost games to the Wolfpack in the last five years similarly to the way they’ve lost games this season: close, and late. Carolina has lost to NC State in a blowout, and after falling behind early and having comebacks fall short, and even after losing late leads.
Carolina has become famous for its comebacks this year, except for the fact that none of their comebacks have resulted in wins. But Carolina has erased – or nearly erased – second-half deficits of 29 points and 14 points (in the fourth quarter last week) this season, only to fall just short. “If we can just focus, put together our game plan, not shoot ourselves in the foot, do what’s necessary early on then it won’t matter,” UNC right guard Jonathan Cooper said. “If we’re able to finish drives not with field goals but with touchdowns then we won’t be talking about the last late minutes of the quarter.”
A few slightly different bounces of the football (specifically, Maryland’s kicker bouncing a 30-yard field goal inside the goal post), and NC State would have also been on the end of a heartbreaking loss. But after three close wins this season (two in the last two contests), the Wolfpack feels confident it can win those games. And of course, they’re confident that if they play like they should, they can win their sixth straight.
NC State has been an inconsistent bunch under O’Brien, but when they’re on, as Wolff pointed out, they’re hard to stop. They just want to stay loose, relax and have fun. And why not? It’s worked so far.
“Sometimes, you see spotlights during games, we bring that energy. When we have that energy, it’s hard for a lot of teams to stop us,” Wolff said. “Coach O’Brien talks a lot about enthusiasm, everybody being very enthusiastic and it starts in practice. I feel like once somebody makes a play and I get hype, it feeds off to other people….We’re going to have to just reenact that out, really, and just have fun. It’s all about having fun. That’s what football is about. We’re going to try to have fun and win Saturday.”
Moments in NC State-North Carolina history: Just as I ran across the gem of the Duke mascot nearly killing a UNC student with a trident in an old Daily Tar Heel, I found some other NC State-related tales as well. From the November 3, 1935 DTH:
NC State students came over right before the football game to try to steal Rameses III and got a ewe instead. They stole instead a black bull, a “perfumed billy goat and a horse that laughed.” They disguised themselves as Carolina students. “But the ways of city fellers are queer and, and, after chasing the poor critter half way back to Raleigh, they finally got it in the car to be put on display at a State pep rally. One thing was overlooked. Rameses III is a ram, but not this substitute which made no difference to engineers, reserve officers or city fellers. State students obviously don’t believe in stealing rams, like ewe, ewe and ewe.”
At the State game in Raleigh, State fans brought in two cows that had red-painted signs that read “We’ll Beat Carolina and This Is No Bull” and the other said “Carolina is a Lot of Bull”. One cow wouldn’t move and they had to carry it. The State ram got loose and threw off the State colors, causing the Carolina fans to stand and cheer, but they caught the ram. Some kids from Chapel Hill High steal a sign and half of the State stands chase after them and get it back.
From the 1999 10-6 Carolina win, a thriller that saw perhaps two of the worst quarterbacked games in each school’s history:
Equal time: Russell Wilson’s crazy “Hail Mary” against North Carolina in 2010:
A look back at the good old days when both coaches would talk some trash (and by “good old days” I mean “last year”):
Prediction: NC State, 27-24. Unlike Las Vegas, who has made the Tar Heels the favorites for each of the last five games, I’ll believe that North Carolina will beat NC State once it actually happens. They’re capable of doing it, and it seems like the rivalry is due for a UNC win. But of two inconsistent teams, I’ll go with the one that seems the least inconsistent.
NC State’s 17-16 win over Florida State two weeks ago was a potential season-changer for the Wolfpack. But after a bye week to bask in the victory, NC State (4-2, 1-1) is ready to get back to business at Maryland (4-2, 2-0). “This is going to tell us where we want to go, whether we want to just stay complacent with a Florida State win and that would be our season, or whether we want to go farther in the season,” NC State wide receiver Quintin Payton said.
Losing after a big win has been a bit of a trend in recent Wolfpack history. The best example was 2010, when NC State won at Georgia Tech and started 4-0 before falling in a close one at home to Virginia Tech. They got a huge win over Boston College the next week, finally beating head coach Tom O’Brien’s former school, a week before losing at a mediocre ECU team in overtime. They followed that up with a win over a ranked Florida State team before losing at Clemson the next week.
But in 2011, the roller coaster ride of NC State football seemed to even out towards the end of the year. They won their final three games, beating a top-ten Clemson team at home and then coming back for a win in the regular-season finale against Maryland.
The comeback is what’s key there, though: for awhile, it looked like the same old Wolfpack was back. They inexplicably crushed Clemson the previous week. Nearly three quarters of football later, they were down 41-14 at home to a two-win Maryland team. “You never want to put yourself in that position. Looking back, I think we tried too hard early. I’ve certainly never been in a situation where you had to score 35 fourth-quarter points,” O’Brien said.
And yet, they did: NC State scored 42 unanswered (35 in the fourth quarter) to win, 56-41. O’Brien knows that this year’s game will be different, though. “Their psyche at that point, they were a 2-9 team and now they’re 4-2 and they’ve won two in a row and they’ve won two ACC games. Certainly going to College Park has been a tough place for us to play,” he said.
But every Atlantic Division venue has been tough for the Wolfpack, seemingly: they are winless on the road in division since O’Brien took over as head coach. “It just means I’m a bad coach against opponents in our conference on the road,” O’Brien said dryly. “It’s my fault when we lose. I’ll try to be a better coach this week.” He added a derisive sniff.
Maryland has been one of the places NC State has had a chance to win a division road game more often than not under O’Brien. But Byrd Stadium is one of those sneakily difficult places to play for all ACC teams, not just NC State. In 2010, NC State only had to beat Maryland to win the Atlantic Division crown, and they led by 14 points late. But Maryland came back to win 38-31.
“It was cold,” defensive end Brian Slay said of his memories of that game. “It wasn’t a good trip to say the least. They spoiled our chance to go to the ACC Championship game a few years ago. So we’re going to keep that in mind and also just try to go out there and use what happened two years ago and be the first time in awhile that’s won at Maryland at NC State.”
NC State is 2-3 against Maryland under O’Brien and has lost eight of the last 12 meetings. This will only be the second time NC State and Maryland have faced off with NC State coming off of a win under O’Brien, and NC State is 1-1 in those games (including last year).
NC State has control of the Atlantic Division at this point after beating Florida State. The win over Florida State can revitalize this team for the second half of the schedule, but only if it takes care of a team it should beat.
The 2010 loss is still on the minds of this NC State team. A lot of the players remember it very well, and don’t want history to repeat itself. “(The team) was saying how two years ago Maryland ruined (Atlantic Division title hopes) for us, so let’s not let it happen again at Maryland,” Slay said.
Moments in NC State-Maryland history: Sorry in advance, NC State fans. But it’s the Torrey Smith game in 2010.
And sorry about this one too, but with a Doc Walker “locked up in the closet” reference and a long Chris Turner run, I had to:
But I’m going to make up for it now (from last year):
And from 2009:
And of course, the NC State-Maryland rivalry gave us this from Ron Cherry, otherwise known as one of the most important moments in ACC history.
Prediction: NC State, 26-13. Maryland’s defense is very good, but the offense is…not so much. And NC State’s defense is playing with renewed confidence after controlling Florida State’s powerful offense two weeks ago. At some point, O’Brien has to win a division road game. This feels like that point.