A rampant problem in sports journalism is oversimplification. Despite that acknowledgement, I’m going to keep this very, very simple:
This is Tom O’Brien’s “shit or get off the pot” moment.
No, I’m not saying that he should be fired if he loses to Florida State. Nor am I saying this season will become a disaster. But our pursuit of the Atlantic Division title (in a year with no really good teams) would end before November. And I believe we absolutely must be in the hunt down to the wire this season, if we are to be a contender at any point during the O’Brien era. Again, to put it in very simple terms:
Tom O’Brien came to NC State to cap off his career with a championship.
That’s it. Yeah, going to bowl games is all well and good. But he’s done that already. State fans love making Peach Bowl trips. But we’ve certainly done it many times before, under multiple head coaches. The title drought is the key, and where NC State and Tom O’Brien signed up to get that mutual monkey off their back.
Tonight is also a perfect storm of factors working in our favor. The game will be the only one on TV (yeah, there’s baseball…but it’s BASEBALL), and ESPN’s very pro-NC State Thursday night crew is good about highlighting the host university. Get a signature win for the program, with a rowdy capacity crowd on hand, and the publicity will be glowing. State should be focused after the embarrassing loss in Greenville (despite being highly embarrassing, it did nothing to keep the team from reaching any program goals). Florida State is known to have lapses in focus and preparation. Their QB (who I don’t think highly of even at 100%) will be playing hurt.
Put it simply, we have to take advantage of the opportunity presented and show that NC State football should be taken seriously. Lose, and there’s no intellectually honest way to refute the naysayers. They will have been right all along.
The Pack still has no better than a 40% shot to win the Atlantic, even with a win tonight. And the ACC title game will likely be a coin flip (even with a significant home crowd advantage in Charlotte). But being in the hunt in November, and earning a significant bowl bid give O’Brien another couple of shots at it with Mike Glennon. And the team will believe him when he tells them how close they are.
If we lose tonight, go ahead and start preparing the “gold watch” ceremony. It will be a matter of when, not if – and no moment of greater glory will precede it.
There will be Live Bloggage tonight. I had minor foot surgery yesterday, so it may be drug addled and less prolific than usual. But I will be there. We all should, in one way or another. This is our defining moment.