‘Opportunistic’ Weekend

With NC State’s football team participating in its 5th bowl in 6 years, and the basketball team hosting the #12 ranked team in the country over the next 24 hours, many would deem the weekend a “BIG ONE” from an athletics perspective. As much as I wish it were the case, I am going to resist the urge and go with a little different description – let’s call it an “opportunistic weekend”. It’s an opportunity not to screw up.

Based on the tempered level of excitement that I feel from the fanbase, and the stature of our opponents on the field/court of battle, this weekend’s games are the type that tend to turn fans sour if with losses lose, but don’t generate a ton of excitement with wins. It’s kind of like holding serve. But, it is the kind of holding serve that ‘real’ programs have to do to create a foundation on which to build.

IMHO, the football team is in a more precarious situation than the basketball team this weekend.

Despite their #12 ranking, you can’t sell me on ‘George Washington’ being a true national power, and therefore I can’t get TOO excited about a win over the Colonials. But, Herb Sendek’s team has been holding serve in the early season enough to have built some cushion for this year.

As Tim Brando proclaimed in Fox’s broadcast of Miami’s visit to Raleigh, “(State is) going to need a win against a quality opponent”. Based on Sendek’s 9-year struggle against anything remotely resembling tough competition, I whole-heartedly concur with Brando. So, for Sendek, tonight is an “opportunity” to generate some success against a team expected to be highly ranked at the end of the year.

But, Wolfpack Basketball will have numerous opportunities to make a name during the rest of the year; this is the football program’s last opportunity to make a name for itself for the next nine months.

The risk-reward situation in Charlotte is very different for the football program; and very unbalanced against the Pack. The South Florida Bulls represent a big risk for Chuck Amato and the future perspective of NC State’s football program. The upside of beating USF is all but non-existent; but a loss to the unknown Bulls will send fans away from Bank of America Stadium grumbling about an 11-12 record over the last two years.

Additionally, South Florida represents a true recruiting threat to Chuck Amato and NC State’s future. The Bulls have built a program on the backs of the same Florida High School prospects that Chuck Amato has been successful in luring to Raleigh in his tenure. This season, USF was competitive in every game on their schedule (at Penn State, and at Miami) and beat bowl-bound Rutgers, Central Florida and (spanked) highly-regarded Louisville. Do not underestimate this game’s impact on the perception of these programs with key recruits.

The upside for Chuck is simply that the pressure doesn’t get worse at a time that fans fear State’s program is stagnating and under-achieving. The last three years have brought middling records and few signature successes at a time that the Wolfpack has produced more NFL players than any point in its history. This fear of stagnation has been magnified by large financial investmenes made by the fanbase and by the perception that other programs around the Wolfpack are building positive momentum:

* Florida State returns a large majority of their ACC Championship program.
* Boston College just won its 6th consecutive bowl game
* Clemson returns significant talent to a program that has been projected into next year’s preseason Top 10, who was just a few points away from competing for a BCS bid this year, and who trounced the Wolfpack in Raleigh
* Wake Forest has beaten NC State in 2 of the last 3 years
* Carolina’s has won two in a row from the Wolfpack and seems to have rebounded from its valley. If Steve Logan is named offensive coordinator, the Heels will have pulled a successful coup and landed a fantastic offensive mind with intimate knowledge and credibility of/in North Carolina High School football.
* Even East Carolina is experiencing renewed interest in their program under first year Head Coach, Skip Holtz.

Both of NC State’s marquee programs need wins this weekend to stave off frustrated fans. But basketball still has three months filled opportunities to produce success. Football’s opportunity to avoid failure this season comes to a close on Saturday.

General NCS Basketball NCS Football

One Response to ‘Opportunistic’ Weekend

  1. Class of '74 12/30/2005 at 1:06 PM #

    Totally agre, the football program deperately needs this game to help reduce the feeling of underachievement for the season. Basketball wise we have the ACC season to guage where we are each year since we seem disinclined to schedule really tough OOC teams.
    Happy New Year.

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