Lail: Wishful Thinking

<I>Be careful what you wish for ... you may just get it.</I> <P> Last season, the week before NC State's football team was to venture to Columbus, Ohio (that's spelled "O-H-I-O," in case you weren't aware) to take on the Buckeyes, there was a little matter of traveling to Winston-Salem to play pesky Wake Forest.

Chuck Amato wasn't happy about that. He had hoped to get that week off before playing Ohio State, but the Atlantic Coast Conference office had a different idea, and so the 11th-ranked Pack begrudgingly played the Demon Deacons.

And lost. Badly. Jim Grobe's Deacs manhandled the Pack that day, 38-24 in a game that wasn't as close as the score may indicate. By now, most everyone knows that the next week Philip Rivers & Co. matched the Buckeyes shot for shot - up until the very end, when Jim Tressel's team won in triple overtime, 44-38 in an instant classic.

Be careful what you wish for .

This year when the schedule came out, there it was again: "Vs. Ohio State." But this time Amato got his wish. The Pack got a bye week after beating I-AA Richmond, meaning State would not have a game in-between beating up on the Spiders and before taking on the Buckeyes.

Unfortunately, the Pack looked it had been two weeks since it had played a game. Aggressive penalties are one thing - Amato even offered the notion that the 14 penalties for 121 yards incurred by State against OSU were forgivable.

"We've worked too hard to get our kids to be aggressive," Amato told the media on Monday. "And it's about time."

The penalties can be forgiven, in Amato's mind, because the players were going all-out. But State appeared out-of-sync offensively, and while that could be attributed to Ohio State's defense, the more likely the cause was the Pack's lack of game experience.

Quarterback Jay Davis had one half of play under his belt coming into the game as the Pack's starting signal-caller - and that was against the aforementioned Spiders. Conversely, Ohio State's green QB Justin Zwick had already been game-tested twice - one of them an in-state rivalry against Cincinnati, and the other a tight game with Marshall (won on a 55-yard field goal by Mike Nugent with two seconds left). Two weeks of practice is all well and good, but the fact of the matter is Davis - and the entire State team - could've used another game before playing the Buckeyes.

Be careful what you wish for .

Now the Pack must turn around and right the ship in perhaps one of the toughest places to do so - Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. Sheesh. And if Amato's team can't find a way to get it done this Saturday in Blacksburg, then have no fear.
There's always a game against Wake Forest the following week.

ACC Rankings - One Man's Opinion
1. Miami: There's no reason to remove the Canes from the top of the standings until someone (NCSU? Virginia? Virginia Tech?) removes them.
2. Virginia: Cavs are outscoring their foes 151-38 so far this year.
3. Florida State: Seminoles looked like their old selves last week against UAB.
4. Maryland: There. Perhaps the Terps went ahead and got the loss out of the way.
5. Virginia Tech: Hokies get their first real ACC test on Saturday. (Sorry. Duke doesn't count.)
6. NC State: Lots of questions dogging the Pack. A win at Lane would call off the wolves - for the time being.
7. Wake Forest: The Disciplined Deacs continue to roll.
8. (tie) Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina: The Heels beat the Jackets who beat the Tigers - but it's hard to believe that UNC is better than Clemson, so we'll just call them even.
11. Duke: Blue Devils lost to Virginia Tech, 41-17. Which one was the expansion team again?

This Week's Games
NC State at Virginia Tech: Will the Pack be in sync enough offensively to hang with Frank Beamer's squad? Virginia Tech 35, NC State 21

Miami at Houston (Thursday): Brock Berlin doesn't have to be sensational at QB for the Canes, just disaster-free. His supporting cast (and defense) can do the rest. Miami 44, Houston 13

Maryland at Duke: The Terps are looking to rebound after losing to rival West Virginia. Wallace Wade Stadium is a good place to do so. Maryland 27, Duke 10

Boston College at Wake Forest: In the near future, this will be a conference game. BC is still in the Big East, and with the absence of Virginia Tech and Miami, the Eagles may be one of the best teams in the league. However, that won't be enough to get past Wake Forest's aggravating offense. Wake Forest 35, Boston College 31

Louisville at North Carolina: The Heels are riding high after trouncing Georgia Tech - and rightfully so. North Carolina 27, Louisville 24

Clemson at Florida State: It took Clemson's win over FSU last season to save Tommy Bowden's job. A loss this year may have the Ryder trucks on stand-by. Bobby 32, Tommy 14

Syracuse at Virginia: The Orangemen are in disarray - and Virginia can taste the blood. Virginia 51, 'Cuse 32

Prognostication Record So Far (based on picking the correct winner only): 19-3* (*Not counting the NC State-Ohio State game)


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