Sorry I didn’t have time to blog on this sooner, but the 2008 NC State football schedule is a very interesting one. Let’s take it game by game, and think of how the season might play out:
Aug. 28 at South Carolina (ESPN – Thurs.)
I love being in the national spotlight early. It will be easy for Coach O’Brien to get his players fired up. I particularly like playing a “nothing to lose” game – the players should be looser, and a win would have the nation talking about Tom O’Brien and NC State. Yes, I know that South Carolina had a disappointing year last year, but they are still a Spurrier-coached SEC team playing at home – they will be expected to win easily.
Plus, I have lots of great memories about this series. It is not a “friendly” or “polite” rivalry, but not a violent and unpleasant one either (see Carolina, East). I was in the end zone grass hill (in a sea of Gamecock fans) when Kramer’s Hail Mary on an untimed down silenced the redneck horde. Definitely an awesome childhood memory, screaming and pointing at the blank stares and gaping mouths around me (after about 60 seconds of silence, I did hear someone complain “That’s bullllllshiiiiiiit!” Fun times. The first game my wife attended with me was the “Pre-Floyd Tropical Storm” game, in Holtz’ 1st or 2nd year. She knew I was crazy when I didn’t so much as consider leaving early, but she married me anyway. Tip – in warm weather monsoons, wear swimming trunks and flip-flops. You stay much more comfortable.
Williams/Brice is a very hostile visiting environment, and what a baptism of fire it could be for Russell Wilson or Mike Glennon. I am very curious to see how they would respond.
I’m glad Spurrier wants to play us, and even if we can’t go back to an annual series, there should be at least one home-and-home per decade.
I have a nagging feeling that we get a win here, although I will predict that USC wins a close one.
Sept. 6 William & Mary
This is a nice warmup before ACC action starts. We can build on the effpot against South Carolina, or regain some confidence. Either way, it will be nice knowing we won’t be 0-2 heading into Death Valley.
Sept. 13 at Clemson
Did somebody say “nothing to lose”? This game certainly fits the bill. Most in the media have or will pick the Tiggers to win the Atlantic Division. 80,000 plus will be on hand, wearing that God-awful orange color. The matchup sucks, thanks to Clemson’s abundant speed and tough running game. Still, I believe Clemson is breaking in a new QB. New QBs sometimes make mistakes before they settle in. Bowden’s teams usually drop a handful of games early, including at least one that they shouldn’t. Maybe they also get a big early win against Alabama, and overlook the Pack after last year’s beatdown in Raleigh.
Still, even I can’t be crazy enough to predict a win here.
Sept. 20 East Carolina
We beat these assholes in their “Super Bowl” last year, and it turns my stomach to be playing them 3 years in a row, even more so to consider a loss. Repeat after me, “Coach” Fowler – South Carolina rivalry = good, East Carolina rivalry = likely “Cops” episode. Have to feel good about being no worse than 2-2 after this game.
Sept. 27 South Florida
Please check me on this, but I believe USF loses a ton of key players from last year’s inconsistent (but dangerous) squad. Getting blown out in last year’s Sun Bowl by an injury-depleted Oregon squad that limped across the Pac-10 finish line can’t help their psyche, either. This is likely to be a low-scoring game, in which our kicking game (major question mark heading into spring practice) could determine the outcome. We should have our depth chart and various roles figured out by this game, so the timing is pretty good.
I am pegging this game as the pivotal one of the season – I think it will be the turning point, one way or the other. I don’t see how we miss a bowl game if we beat USF.
Oct. 4 Boston College
Feel the seething hatred! Matt Ryan made 2 unbelievable plays to shift the Eagles’ record from 4-4 to 6-2. But in the re-match of one such game, the Hokies reined supreme and won the ACC title, kicking BC as far down in the bowl pecking order as the ACC rules allowed. Then they barely beat Big Ten also-ran Michigan State (in the only bowl game where I cheered against the ACC team). We’ll see how much fun “Jags” provides the handful of Eagle faithful without a cupboard full of returning Tom O’Brien senior leaders. First to worst in the Atlantic is not out of the question, and I’ll love every minute of it.
That said, we will be playing our 6th game on October 4, without any bye weeks (and only one cupcake) to rest any nagging injuries. Depth will still be an issue for the 2008 Wolfpack. Still, no way do I bet against Tom O’Brien here. After this week, we could be 3-3, or as high as 5-1. The schedule does lay out nicely if we are able to play to our maximum potential early, and get better QB and OL play. The “toss-up” or “slight favorite” games are all at home up to this point.
Oct. 16 Florida State (ESPN – Thurs.)
The Pack gets 11 days to prepare for the Seminoles, in a home Thursday night matchup. Carter-Finley will be raucous and highly inebriated, especially if the Pack comes in at 4-2 or 5-1. Can emotion and prep time overcome FSU’s sizeable speed and athleticism advantage? Probably not. But it sure would be nice to give Amato yet another loss in front of the home crowd. His last game in Raleigh was a loss, and I want it to stay that way, damn it.
Oct. 25 at Maryland
State gets a few extra days prior to the trip to College Park. Historically, this is the kind of game that NC State never, ever wins. I will go out on a limb and predict that we will win this game if we lose to FSU, and lose if we are coming off a win. I would be very satisfied to exit this contest at 2-2 in the ACC.
Nov. 8 at Duke
If there’s one opponent (other than Bill and Mary) that doesn’t require an extra week of prep time, it’s Duke. But it does allow sufficient time to craft an A+ game plan, to make sure Cutcliffe’s charges don’t pull off an emotional upset. The stands will be 75% red, and I have to think that pulls us through even on an off-day. Like the USC series, I have lots of good memeories of high octane State/Duke games from the 1980s.
Nov. 15 Wake Forest
Very, very glad to have this game at home, and late in the season. I would very much rather have the bye week before this one, though. Riley Skinner will test the Pack defense, but the Pack should be playing with more confidence by mid-November. I expect both teams will be playing for bowl position, and NC State could be a spolier for Wake’s title hopes (Wake gets Clemson at home). This is a classic trap game – for the Deacons. But Wake likely prevails anyway.
Nov. 22 at North Carolina
Love playing the hated Tarheels late. It’s another chance for a “home away from home” game, as UNC folks will already be in full hoops mode. This is another key game for NC State to stay in bowl contention, and to get above .500 in conference play heading into the home finale. A win might also have the added benefit of knocking UNC out of the bowl picture. Again, I can’t predict O’Brien to lose to Butch. Just can’t. May his run be Sheridan-like.
Nov. 29 Miami
Again, I think this game is placed favorably on the schedule. If one is going to play the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it’s best to do so at home against an opponent that has to travel a long distance. We don’t have to worry about any visiting fans making the trip, either. I expect this game to mean far more for Wolfpack players than Miami’s, but the speed and athleticism might be too much. Like the South Carolina game, this is one that I have a feeling about, but the brain says no.
Predicted Record: 7-5 (4-4)
This result would make me very happy, and all of you should feel likewise. And this prediction is 100% contingent upon the starting QB not being Daniel Evans.
Oppotunity Games: at South Carolina, vs. Florida State, vs. Wake Forest
A win from this list would be a sign of a possible breakout season. Two wins would be a near-certain indicator.
Firewall Games: vs. East Carolina, vs. Boston College
Lose one of these, and it could be a long season. Lose both, and it looks like a history-making terrible season.