In a game that might have implications for NC State football for years, the Wolfpack travels to Orlando this Saturday evening for a game against Conference USA opponent Central Florida.
Why is this game so critical for the Wolfpack?
Simple. State probably needs the win to be bowl eligible later on this year. Few if any pundits are predicting a big season for NC State, which is understandable given the results the team has returned the first three years of the Tom O’Brien era. State has not had a winning record during that time, and this season, on paper, it looks like the margin between going to a bowl and staying home is paper thin. UCF is currently favored by a field goal, which is about right for a home team when two squads are essentially equal. If that’s the case – the teams are more or less equal to one another – then this game becomes critical for NC State to win as it builds any possible post-season resume.
Okay, but how can it affect the Wolfpack for years?
Two reasons. First, if Tom O’Brien and staff do not return the Pack to one of college football’s 35 post-season bowl games, then calls for his removal will be loud and long during the offseason. New AD Debbie Yow and Chancellor Randy Woodson may or may not heed those calls, but even if they give O’Brien another season to turn things around, it will be difficult for him to recruit at a high level so long as he has an axe over head. That could mean a marginal class of new players stepping into the program, which of course will effect the team a few years down the road.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, black clouds of uncertainty are hanging over the UNC-CH football program at the moment, and this is a situation that NC State can — and should — use to its advantage by showing in-state recruits that the Wolfpack is a program on its way back up and that it has not only certainty at the helm but also a pristine reputation for making sure players get a real education and have marketable life skills after football. So far in this recruiting season, UNC has mopped up the commitments from top in-state players, but with Butch Davis’s tenure questionable those commitments can only be softening. State can offer a better alternative, but to do that, it must prove itself a better team than it has been the past few years. That can start Saturday in Orlando.
Gametime is 7:30pm, and the contest will be televised nationally on CBS-CSN. Viewers locally can tune to TimeWarner channel 537, DirecTV 613 or Dish Network 152. For TWC subscribers, purchase of the “sports tier” of stations is required.
If you want some pre-game ‘detail’ breakdown and talk…then all you need to do is click here to fulfill your heart’s content. As always, we encourage you to make use of our message forums for extended coverage of all things NC State. There should be plenty of conversations going during Saturday’s college football games.
We will have live blogging tonight for the game. More later!