This time tomorrow, it will be gameday. For the first time in several years, disaster doesn’t seem imminent. The players are confident. The fans are confident. Hell, the weather is even going to be perfect. Doesn’t that scare the crap out of anyone else?
At NC State, we are always the most confident before impending disaster. And at least this first week of play, that’s what I fear is looming. Fortunately, we have a coach and a staff with a proven track record, not just that desperate, amorphous “hope” for a better day that we usually have as Wolfpack fans. They can right the ship, beat Pitt, go .500 or better in ACC play, and finish with a solid 7-5 or 8-4 record heading into bowl season. Keep in mind how they got their first two Wolfpack squads back on track after Hindenburg-like starts.
Beyond superstition, paranoia, and my well-known Eeyore-ish tendency towards pessimism – I also see a Gamecocks team with baseline SEC talent. South Carolina doesn’t have Georgia or LSU’s speed and strength…but it doesn’t have Vandy or Mississippi State’s, either. The optimist can claim that SC’s defensive speed is now playing on Sunday – but I doubt the cupboard is that bare for replacements. I also steadfastly believe that expectations are a year ahead of schedule. The kind of players that form the backbone of championship-contending Tom O’Brien teams (RJ Mattes, Audie Cole) are sliding up the two deep. But it won’t fully come together until the 2010-12 window of opportunity.
Predicting a Wolfpack win means betting on a futile Gamecock passing game. Recent history makes that a decent bet – but even bad QBs can be expected to make big plays against a Wolfpack secondary missing its only game-ready CB, DeAndre Morgan (who is out with an injury). This means that the guys we’ve heard about all summer not progressing rapidly enough for the staff’s liking? They will start tomorrow night. At both corner slots. With a former walk-on WR starting at one safety position. I like Clem Johnson as much as anyone, but unless we’ve cloned him in the offseason, we’re going to give up some big plays.
That leaves one route to victory – Russell Wilson single-handedly carrying us to a shootout win (think last year’s BC game, only with State having the ball last). Yeah, that’s possible. But it’s a little much to expect on opening night, when South Carolina has had all offseason to build a gameplan around containing one guy, knowing that nobody else can beat them.
My prediction? South Carolina 34, NC State 24. I hope like hell to be proven very wrong, and for the SFN community to mock me mercilessly on Friday morning.
* The loathing part is fairly easy. Todd Ellis’ invisible six shooter is the best embodiment of why I hate the chickens. Even when we beat these guys, we lose. The untimed down Hail Mary from Kramer to Peebles thrilled us in 1986, as I pointed and laughed at the stunned, toothless Gamecock faithful that dominated the grass bank seating. But EK aggravated an ankle injury on that play, and missed the next game. State lost to a 2-7 UVA squad behind horrid QB play, costing us the ACC title. That one still hurts.
SFN Notes & Comments – Updated 7:45am
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(2) Please note that this entry was logged by BJD95. Let’s be sure to rub it in to him when the Pack delivers on Thursday night.
(3) If BJD’s fear is to be realized – and if USC can truly score 34 points on anyone – then you can rest assured that it will rest with the lack of depth and talent in the NC State secondary. That secondary took ANOTHER big hit when starting cornerback DeAndre Morgan’s ankle injury was publicly announced. That means that three of the four projected starters in the secondary for this year – Javon Walker, DeAndre Morgan and Dominique Ellis will not be suiting up for the first game of the year.
(4) WhatifSports.com runs computer simulations for sporting events. They run 10,000 simulations of all games and their models show NC State playing at home wins 81% of the time against South Carolina by an average score of 21-10. (Link to Week One games)
BJD: That’s insane. I have a hard time believing we could hold a high school team to 10 points with the lineup we’ll trot out tomorrow night.
(5) IMHO, if BJD’s worst fears are realized, then a confluence of events similar to last year’s game would have to unfold – RW getting injured in his first game; no back-up quarterback option; a converted defensive lineman starting at center executing three horrendous snaps costing us possessions and field position; a young set of inexperienced wide receivers; and more. I just don’t know if that all is possible.