As Alpha noted earlier this week, the troubled, bruised, 1-4 NC State Wolfpack is pretty much the last hurdle between Clemson and its first Atlantic Division title. The very same Wolfpack that lost at home to Duke by 3 touchdowns, then got smoked even worse by Boston College (a team that Clemson manhandled a few weeks prior). State’s lone ACC win was a sloppy affair at home against a similarly hapless Maryland team with only one D-1A win all year…which came against Clemson.
And therein lies the source of Tiger Nation’s fear and trepidation. Ever since their deified Danny Ford left town, nothing seems to cause more heartbreak than a clear shot at glory. I covered this phenomenon in my pre-season “case against” Clemson. As I’ve noted before, NC State sports reminds me of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. We tell ourselves this time will be different, but Lucy always yanks the ball away. On a different scale, that’s also been Clemson football for the last decade plus. If you know any Clemson fans, you’ll find that they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Think back to this year’s Maryland game. With the chance to take firm control of the Atlantic race (possible contenders had been dropping like flies, save Boston College – who Clemson handily beat two weeks before), Clemson shat the bed. Down 24-21, Clemson started three 4th quarter drives around the Maryland 30 – and came away with no points.
Unlike in past years, though, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers rallied, blowing out Wake, then winning a thriller (best ACC game of the year, by far) at Miami. Next came Florida State at home, with Papa Bowden ready to avenge his boy’s firing. Amazingly, Clemson overcame numerous bad beats – a Seminole defensive touchdown staking them to an early 17-6 lead, and a stupefying three missed extra points. The Tigers showed heart, determination, and character – pulling away late for a 40-24 win.
So, I look at today’s game a bit differently than usual. It’s kind of a win-win. A State victory would be very satisfying, of course. But if we lose, there’s a silver lining. We won’t have to hear the Massholes crowing about their third consecutive post-TOB Atlantic title (which would also be a financial and PR disaster for the ACC). And we can take some hope and satisfaction that “the other Charlie Brown” finally kicked that damned ball. Maybe one day, we’ll do the same.
Funny trivia note – entering today’s action, only two teams are mathematically eliminated from their respective division titles – Virginia and UNC. Technically, every Atlantic team is still alive!
Live blogging will start at high noon. Talk to you then.
UPDATE: In the meantime, you can read a good entry about why one writer thinks the Pack will prevail today: Three Reasons Why State WILL Beat Clemson