Regardless of whether Amato was NC State's first, second or 100th choice as head coach almost four years ago, he is getting the job done, though, by his own admission, the job is nowhere near completed.
Within 10 days, Amato may just be able to introduce himself to boosters and recruits as "Chuck Amato, head coach of the ACC Champion NC State Wolfpack," which could lead to "Orange Bowl Champ Chuck Amato." Amato and the Pack are right where most thought they would be before the season started - albeit after taking a slightly detoured route. An ACC title is within site, and everyone knew all along that it would come down to the final two games anyway, right?
Who knows where NCSU football would be now if Amato had been hired after Dick Sheridan retired in 1993: Maybe already a BCS program? Perhaps. But perhaps those seven extra years in Tallahassee were exactly what Amato needed to prepare for the job at hand in Raleigh. For one, he may never have fully realized what it feels like to win a national title. Not only does he know what it feels like, he more importantly knows how to get there. It all starts with small steps, such as:
-Changing the attitude of the program, players and
-Recruiting quality, "program-building" players? Check.
-Learning how to beat your rival(s)? Check.
-Dealing with being the hunted, not just the hunter? Check.
The next spot on that checklist could very well be "Winning a conference championship." And if you don't think he has changed the attitude of the program, consider this: the 2003 NC State football season has been a disappointment so far.
It seems to me that Chuck Amato and NC State are more than well on their way.
'Now' ACC Standings
1. Florida State: The Seminoles came tumbling back to earth after that debacle in the Upstate.
2. NC State: It's still a bit of a long shot, but Pack could be BCS-bound ...
3. Maryland: ... though the Terps would love to trip State up.
4 (tie). Clemson and Virginia: Tigers looked like world-beaters last week against FSU; talented Cavaliers have been a disappointment so far.
6 (tie). Georgia Tech and Wake Forest: Hey, you lose to Duke and North Carolina, respectively, and you're bound to drop.
8 (tie). Duke and North Carolina: Yeah, they're both at No. 8 - but with a bullet!
'Later' ACC Standings
1. Virginia Tech
2 (tie). Florida State and Miami
4. NC State
6 (tie). Clemson and Virginia
8 (tie). Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest
11 (tie). Duke and North Carolina
This Week's Predictions:
Virginia at Maryland (Thursday): Both teams were off last week, so they should be well prepared and well rested, which should make for a great primetime match-up. UVa is in dire need of a win, but Maryland has too much on the line. 'Wave high your Black and Gold' 28, 'We Come from Old Vir-Gin-I-A' 17
North Carolina at Georgia Tech: Believe it or not, the Tar Heels seem to be getting their stuff together as the season winds to an end. The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, do not. 'So it's fight, fight, fight for Carolina' 21, 'I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer' 14
Duke at Clemson: It would be easy for the Tigers to suffer a let-down after such an emotional win over Florida State, but then again, Tommy's not out of the woods yet. 'Hold that Tiger' 34, 'Fight for Duke and the Blue and White' 10
Connecticut at Wake Forest: If the Deacs aren't careful, they will fall to a pretty good UConn squad. Of course, at this point, Wake has no reason to not be on its toes. 'Old Gold and Black is ever waving high' 24, 'UConn Husky, symbol of might to the foe' 10
NC State at Florida State: Oh, boy. Who to pick in this one? On one hand, FSU is coming off a loss, and they tend to win after an 'L.' (But then again, who doesn't?) On the other hand, this isn't a "typical" Seminole team; FSU has been anything but "typical" for a couple of seasons now. On the other side of the field, NC State is playing better than it has all year, and is finally (relatively) healthy. The Noles will be gunning for the Pack, but weren't they last season? This one is too close too call, so we'll give the slight edge to home field advantage. 'For FSU is on the warpath now' 27, 'We're behind you, keep fighting for State' 24
Miami 32, Syracuse 17
Virginia Tech 52, Temple 10
Boston College 21, Rutgers 7
Prognostication Record This Year (as far as picking the correct winner goes): 44-16