Mr. Smith: “Pack to be Darkhorse”

About a month ago, I got an email from a professional colleague who was forwarding an email from one of his friends who is originally from Texas – also known as football country. Let’s call the author of the original email, “Mr. Smith”.

Mr. Smith currently lives in Big 10 country in the Midwest. Each year it seems that Mr. Smith “releases” a preseason Top Ten and accompanies his rankings with some general football commentary. I read through Smith’s top ten and related comments and I was impressed; he definitely knew his stuff and his breadth of general college football knowledge was far above that of the average fan.

After getting through Smith’s Top 10, he created some other categories to share thoughts on some teams around the country. In his “Darkhorse” category, Smith listed none other than, NC State.

I liked it.

Of course, in the scope of college football, Smith’s mention of NC State means very little. A media snob would disregard Smith’s comments and say, “consider the source.” I would agree with that assessment, but not in its intended meaning; I have seen what most “professional” media outlets produce and found Smith’s comments as insightful and accurate as 99% of them. So, I ask — what exactly makes this college football junkie’s opinion deserving of less merit than a national sports writer whose job is also to cover Indy Racing, Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, the PGA, and the WNBA? (Sorry gang, journalism school (obviously) doesn’t teach one how to think. It simply teaches one how to write and [sometimes] successfully cloak individual bias as “news”.)

Regardless, I think that it is always nice to be mentioned (and remembered) by good fans throughout the country. This is something that Chuck Amato has definitely brought to NC State — national presence. Ten years ago, our program would have been totally ignored as a threat for anything despite our fan base’s optimistic projections that we could “be 8-3 and go to the Peach Bowl with a few lucky breaks.” NC State may not be competing for National Championships as of yet, but Amato has undeniably marketed the NC State football program and successfully elevated our profile on the national landscape. This kind of attention breeds good recruiting which breeds good players which (hopefully) breeds on-field success which creates more national exposure.

The crux of Smith’s statement regarding NC State as “a team that could surprise this year” is now starting to pop up in other, more traditional places. For example, if you listen to Dave Glenn of the ACCAreaSportsJournal on 850theBuzz, then you have probably heard Glenn proclaim that this is the year for Florida State to be taken advantage of. Glenn says that, (paraphrased) ‘if I were a Boston College or NC State fan this year, then I’d be very excited about our opportunity in the Atlantic Division’.

Again, I like it.

On Thursday, August 11th, Sports Illustrated got into the act with their ACC preview titled, “Door open for sleepers as FSU, Miami vulnerable”. In the piece SI picks State 2nd in the Atlantic Division and states:

The Wolfpack managed to go 5-6 last year despite fielding the nation’s top-ranked defense (221.3 yards per game). Any improvement at all from the quarterback position should be enough for Chuck Amato’s team to return to a bowl game, though it remains to be seen whether Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and the rest of the defense will be quite so successful without coordinator Reggie Herring, who left for Arkansas.

It looks like to me that if you want to listen to a nobody named Mr. Smith, or a local-yocal named Dave Glenn, or a national publication like Sports Illustrated, Wolfpack fans may have more reason to be excited about the coming season than they may realize.