NOTEBOOK: Pack, Eagles Battle on Saturday

NC State (4-1) returns to the field Saturday looking to knock off Boston College (2-2) in Carter-Finley Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 pm, and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.

Tom O'Brien is hoping for his first win against the team he spent 10 years coaching as Boston College comes into Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday. The first ACC game that O'Brien ever coached at NC State was at Boston College on September 8, 2007. Since coming to NC State, his Wolfpack squad has fallen 17-37 (2007), 31-38 (2008) and 20-52 (2009) to BC.

NC State and Boston College first met in 1936, but have only played seven times in the series. O'Brien has stood on one sideline or the other in five of those seven matchups. He was the BC coach in 2005 when the Pack lost 30-10 in Chestnut Hill, then brought his team to Raleigh in 2006, when the Pack won 17-15.

During his tenure with the Eagles, O'Brien posted eight consecutive winning seasons, an NCAA-best six consecutive bowl victories (the Eagles won a seventh a few weeks after he came to NC State), and posted more victories than any other coach in school history with a 75-45 record. He also won the American Football Coaches' Association Academic Achievement Award in 2004 for posting a 100% graduation rate, and won honorable mention status seven additional times.

Tom O'Brien isn't the only member of the Wolfpack staff who spent a great deal of time with the Boston College program. Six members of his coaching staff at NC State followed the boss from BC when he took the job in December of 2006.

Another member of the staff played at Boston College before his coaching career (two of the assistants that came with O'Brien also played at BC). The Wolfpack's strength & conditioning coach and the director of operations both joined the Pack from the Eagles' program as well.

This week's game again Boston College will mark one of many times that Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien and Eagles' head coach Frank Spaziani have coached on the same field, but it will be just the second time that the two old friends will be competing head-to-head. The two coached together for 26 years before O'Brien came to NC State.

The Irishman and the Italian first became friends and colleagues in 1975, when O'Brien, fresh out of the Marines, took a job as an assistant for George Welsh at Navy. Welsh had been an assistant coach at Penn State while Spaziani was playing there and hired him on his Navy staff as well.

The two coached together for the Midshipmen until 1982, when Welsh took the job at Virginia and took both of them with him to Charlottesville. Spaziani left the Cavalier program after the 1990 season, but when O'Brien was named head coach at Boston College in 1997, he joined his old friend.

He coached running backs for two years and then was O'Brien's defensive coordinator for eight years.

Saturday's game with Boston College will mark the Wolfpack's first against a league opponent in the Atlantic Division. NC State is 1-1 so far this season against the Coastal half of the league, winning at Georgia Tech and falling to Virginia Tech. The only other contest against a Coastal division opponent this season will be the Nov. 20 game at North Carolina.

This marks the first season since ACC expansion that the Wolfpack has opened with a non-divisional opponent. In the past four seasons, NC State has dropped it's conference opener - all which were against Atlantic Division rivals.

A total of 58,083 fans packed into Carter-Finley Stadium last Saturday to watch the undefeated Wolfpack take on Virginia Tech. Demand for tickets was at a peak, with NC State's early-season success, combined with the fact that the game marked Parents' and Families Weekend at NC State.

To help accommodate the demands, the athletics department had temporary bleachers installed in the southeast endzone, adding just under 500 seats.

The previous top marks for attendance both came in games against East Carolina. In 1986, 58,650 fans are ‘alleged' to have attended the game (Wolfpack faithful believe that that number might be a bit of an exaggeration based on seating that was available back then) and in 1985, 58,300 was the reported attendance against ECU.

NC State enters the sixth game of the 2010 season with some of the best offensive marks in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Wolfpack currently leads the league in scoring offense (36.2 ppg), pass offense (303.8 ypg) and total offense (448.8 ypg).

Those marks would rank among the top three in school history in each of those categories if the season ended today.

Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson enters the Boston College game leading the ACC in passing yards with 294.8 per game and total offense, with 318.4 per contest. Both of those marks rank eighth in the BCS this week. His 1,474 total passing yards is the second-highest mark in the nation.

In terms of touchdown passes, Wilson has four more than any other ACC signal caller and boasts the second-best mark nationally.

If NC State's receiving corps is as good as advertised, it would seem that at least a couple of the Wolfpack wideouts would be listed among the ACC leaders in receptions or receiving yards. After all, their quarterback leads the league and ranks second nationally in passing yards and the team leads the league and ranks eighth nationally in total offense as well.

But a glance at the conference stats show that just a single NC State receiver ranks in the top 10 in the league in receptions per game (Owen Spencer is ninth with four per contest) and two are on the receiving yards per game list (Spencer is sixth at 71.2 and Jarvis Williams is 10th at 62.4).

Those individual numbers aren't higher because 15 different players have caught passes this season and five have tallied double-digit reception totals. In three of the five games in 2010, passes have been caught by 10 or more different players.

The versatility of the Wolfpack's passing game is evident by looking at the players who are leading the team in receptions. Of the top five pass catchers this season, three are wide receivers, one is a halfback and one is a tight end.

Nine different players have at least one touchdown catch this season. Ironically, the Wolfpack's most highly-touted wideouts, Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer, have just two TDs between them.

Another interesting note about Russell Wilson: The Wolfpack's redshirt junior quarterback boasts a career touchdown to interception ratio of 3.9:1. The other 15 quarterbacks in ACC history with 50+ TD passes have a collective ratio of 1.6:1.

In other words, Wilson's ratio is better than double the average amassed by the 15 most accomplished QBs in league history.

NC State leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally in third-down conversion defense this week. The Wolfpack's feisty defensive unit is allowing the opposition to convert on just 26.6% of it's third-down attempts (17 of 64).

The Wolfpack has forced the opposition into 23 three-and-outs this season, an average of 4.6 per game. That mark ranks third nationally this week.

It isn't very often that a team emerges from playing Georgia Tech leading the league in time of possession (the Yellow Jackets led the ACC and ranked third nationally in that category last season).

But the Wolfpack dominated the TOP by over six minutes in the win in Atlanta on September 25 and still ranks first in the league and 16th nationally by averaging 32:21 minutes of offense per game.

NC State turned the ball over three times in the loss to Virginia Tech, a season-high in that category. It marked just the second time this season that the Wolfpack had more turnovers than its opponent.

However, Tom O'Brien's squad still boasts a +3 mark in the turnover margin column, tied as the third-best in the ACC.

The Pack's success in holding onto the ball is even more impressive considering that in 2009, NC State finished the season ranked 114th nationally in turnover margin, with 25 turnovers to just 14 takeaways. This season, NC State ranks 31st nationally.

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