Jeff Sagarin has predicted NC State to finish 9-3 in the regular season and to come in second place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division in his weekly college football rankings. Sagarin has the Wolfpack ranked #36 in his listings, which is about the same place that State sits in other polls. Calculating out his predictors and other statistical indicators, currently the ACC is slate should end as:
|Florida State||8||0||10||2||Georgia Tech||7||1||9||3|
|N.C. State||6||2||9||3||Virginia Tech||6||2||8||4|
|Wake Forest||2||6||5||7||North Carolina||2||6||4||8|
I am not sure how much to make of this ranking, however, because when I see Clemson coming in at 3-9 overall, I am deeply suspicious. The Tigers played very well at Auburn, and could have as easily won that game as lost it. To me, that’s not the hallmark of a team that’s going to go 3-9. While the Tigers may not win the ACC or go to a BCS bowl, I am convinced they are better than Sagarin’s predictions.
Interestingly, Sagarin also seems to think that State will lose one out of conference game – if they are going to finish 6-2 in conference play as he predicts, and if he is saying that the Pack is going to finish 9-3, that means that State will lose on the road to ECU next month, its only remaining OOC game for the regular season. Having seen a Tulsa team nearly beat them and after collapsing in the second half against a mediocre Virginia Tech offense, I am having problems believing that the Pirates can stop NC State’s offense. That in mind, I believe State will have the upper hand in the upcoming in-state rivalry game. State’s defense has improved, so has its offense and I simply don’t believe that even with the home field advantage that ECU can keep up with the Pack’s potent offensive attack.
At the same time I hope Sagarin has hit the mark with the Wolfpack – a 9-3 regular season may well slot NC State to return to the Peach Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, which is a very welcome and well-regarded destination destination for Pack fans.
Additionally this week’s opponent — Georgia Tech (2-1) comes in at #34 — making Saturday’s contest (12pm ESPN) a pick ‘em for all intents and purposes. After all, it would be hard to find a plug nickel’s difference between the #34 and the #36 team in college football. While the Jackets will be homestanding, it’s hard to believe that Bobby Dodd Stadium will be imposing enough to give Tech a nine point advantage – which is the current Vegas line for the game.
As it is often said, however, games are played on gridirons, not Excel spreadsheets, so take this for what its worth. If NC State can contain the Georgia Tech offense and maintain the pace it has thus far in the season when it has the ball, chances are very good that the Pack can return home from Atlanta 4-0. If the resurgent Wolfpack stopping unit fails to keep the Yellow Jacket triple-option attack under its paw, then it will be a very long day for the team.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Pat Forde is still doubting the Pack:
NC State (25). What’s to like: After throwing 11 interceptions last year, quarterback Russell Wilson is pick-free so far in 2010. The opportunistic Wolfpack (one word) has outscored opponents 72-21 in the first half.
What’s to doubt: NC State hasn’t run the ball with consistency. And there are plenty of challenging games to come.
Reality check: At Georgia Tech on Saturday (ESPN, noon ET). Wolfpack are 1-11 in their past 12 ACC road games outside the state of North Carolina.
Verdict: NC State will finish with its first winning record since 2005.
I am not convinced that Forde has been watching NC State closely, as I came away convinced that not only did NC State have a great game running the ball against Cincinnati, I also thought they have found a potential star back in Mustafa Greene. After watching the replay of the game on the DVR, that thought was only reinforced — the offensive line has improved and Greene is a player who can do a LOT of damage if he breaks into the second level. Maybe it is my red-tinted glasses, but I did hear some praise for Greene from the ostensibly neutral ESPN game announcers too, so maybe not.