For the first time in Tom O'Brien's four years in Raleigh, that has been assured by the end of October.
Instead, what the 28-24 victory over Florida State accomplished was to keep the Wolfpack in the running for the ACC title, and the BCS berth that goes with it.
And if that happens, a big reason will be the decision to go for the end zone on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line late in the game.
With less than three minutes to play, the Wolfpack were down by three. Kick the chip-shot field goal and N.C. State would force overtime unless the Seminoles can drive down the field and score. That seemed to be N.C. State's plan when it initially sent out its field-goal unit.
But O'Brien called timeout to talk things over, and when play resumed, the starting offense was back on the field. Russell Wilson found tight end George Bryan in the end zone, and the Wolfpack had the lead.
"When the field-goal team went on, we knew we had some time still on the clock," O'Brien said. "(Offensive coordinator) Dana (Bible) was yelling at me to go for six, so we let the clock run down and then called a timeout. We thought we had a great play, and Russell made a good throw to George."
Florida State did drive down the field, all the way to the 4-yard line. But because North Carolina State had gotten the ball in the end zone, a field goal would do the Seminoles no good, and while setting up a pass into the end zone, quarterback Christian Ponder made contact with his own tailback. The ball popped out, Nate Irving fell on it, and N.C. State ran out the clock.
"It was a man-to-man play where we had a blitz on one side and coverage in the back," Irving said. "I saw the quarterback play-action fake, so I stepped up and I saw he had a loose grip on the ball, so I just kept going and it popped out."
N.C. State has a tough schedule remaining, with three road games in the last four, including a tough one this weekend at Clemson.
But heading into the second half of the ACC slate, O'Brien's team is playing for a BCS berth, which is a lot better outlook in November than has been seen in Raleigh in a long time.
NOTES: North Carolina State rushed for 189 yards against Florida State, marking a season high. However, through eight games, the Wolfpack still haven't had a running back with a 100-yard game. Mustafa Greene had a season-high 91 yards against Virginia Tech, and he led the Pack with 76 against the Seminoles.
--The Wolfpack have scored 27 points or more in each of their first eight games. It's the first time a North Carolina State offense has ever been that prolific.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Russell Wilson -- Wilson has beaten most opponents with his arm this season, but he did most of his damage against Florida State with his legs. He scored the team's first three touchdowns on the ground before that game-winning flip to tight end George Bryan.
KEEP AN EYE ON: S Earl Wolff -- The sophomore had the best game of his Wolfpack career on national television, leading the team with nine tackles and breaking up a pass. The young secondary looks like it's gelling at the right time for North Carolina State, and it helped key the 28-24 victory.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He led us down the field, and he's just a great leader. I'd follow him anywhere and do anything for him." -- North Carolina State tight end George Bryan, on quarterback Russell Wilson.
Early look at N.C. State
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