Take 2: Will NC State win the Atlantic?

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
1:00
PM ET
Lo and behold, there is a new team in control of its own destiny in the Atlantic Division. Hello NC State!

Now that the Wolfpack have pulled the upset on Florida State, can they run the table and get into the ACC championship? Heather and I weigh in on the hot topic of the day.

Heather says: Yes they can.

What happened in Raleigh on Saturday night shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

The more puzzling performance was how poorly NC State played against Tennessee in the season opener, and how average the Wolfpack looked through the month of September. NC State entered this season capable of having a special year under coach Tom O’Brien -- a darkhorse candidate to play in Charlotte -- and thanks to Saturday’s monumental upset, it still can.

NC State now controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division. It owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over preseason favorite Florida State. All it has to do is win out. You better believe O’Brien is a good enough coach to get that done. The Pack has a bye this week to emotionally digest the upset and turn its focus to Maryland. Back-to-back road trips won’t be easy, especially against rival North Carolina on Oct. 27. The Tar Heels look like the most complete team in the Coastal Division, and they’re playing much better defensively. Plus, the added motivation of a five-game losing streak to their in-state rivals and having home field advantage will be intangibles that favor UNC. The biggest test for NC State will be at Clemson on Nov. 17. Clemson, though, is one play away from losing again. The Tigers’ defense continues to struggle, and it’s a weakness quarterback Mike Glennon will be able to exploit. Don’t forget that NC State beat then-ranked No. 7 Clemson at home a year ago.

The six turnovers and 14 penalties in the loss at Miami were inexplicable, but they were also an anomaly. NC State learned a lot from that loss, and to come back from a second straight 16-point deficit -- this time against the No. 3-ranked team in the nation -- shows that NC State can beat anyone in the ACC.

Florida State might still be the best team in the ACC, but until proven otherwise, NC State is the team to beat right now.

Andrea says: Not so fast my friends!

Tom O'Brien pulled a page out of his Upset 101 Handbook against the Seminoles last Saturday night. He refers to that book about once a year, right folks? But here is the thing about NC State: The Wolfpack have been unable to beat both Florida State AND Clemson in the same season since 2002.

That stat is one O'Brien pointed to several times during ACC media day earlier this summer. If his team can figure out a way to pull the upset against Clemson next month, then it will be in great shape. But I am not buying just yet. First of all, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher called way too conservative a game. I am not taking anything away from the plays Mike Glennon made to win the game for the Wolfpack. I give him and his teammates major credit for the comeback win.

But as EJ Manuel told reporters Monday, he thought the Seminoles would throw it more on what had proven to be a very inconsistent secondary. You can all but guarantee that Clemson is not going to go all conservative against the Wolfpack. If Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett had nearly 200 yards receiving on that secondary, well you can pretty much bet DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins will have their way. Yes, Clemson is not great on defense. But the Tigers are better than Miami. NC State may not be able to win a shootout.

Secondly, NC State still has injury concerns on the offensive line. Its receivers have been inconsistent. All-American cornerback David Amerson is not having a great year. This team has got big improvements to make.

Are they capable? Yes. Heather is right when she says this team has talent and potential.

But we have only seen one good game against a bona fide FBS opponent this season. I am going to need more than that to truly believe the Wolfpack are championship material.

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