Lail: Turtle Stewing

Last fall, less than a week after the Maryland Terrapins came to Raleigh and ruined NC State's season and Philip Rivers' Senior Day, I got up early, threw on a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt and a red NCSU cap and made my way to one of those cavernous electronics superstores for the horror that is the Day After Thanksgiving sale. (The wife wanted a $25 DVD player.)

While jockeying for position in the CD department, a middle-aged, overweight man in a Maryland cap walked up to me with a huge (you know the kind) grin on his face and said: "Boy, we sure ruined your bowl game, didn't we?" He then walked away, laughing like a hyena.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I'm a pretty laid-back dude. It takes a LOT to get me fired up. Let me tell you, I was pretty fired up that day with the memories of the 26-24 Terrapins win still fresh. I'd like to think that it was the ungodly hour (6:30 a.m.) that kept me from making a scene. But the fact of the matter is that it was something else that prevented me from saying anything back to the obnoxious jerk.

He was right.

That's why, in one small way, Saturday's win over Maryland was a bittersweet, disappointing affair. As the clock wound down on State's 13-3 win in College Park, the ABC cameras spotted Wolfpack Coach Chuck Amato going down the sidelines basically telling his players to behave - but in slightly more colorful language. Amato didn't want his team to celebrate foolishly or embarrass themselves or their school. But there was no need for Amato's warnings. State had just beaten an inept Maryland team. Where's the fun in that?

In recent State-Maryland clashes, the intensity and emotions have run so high that objects have been thrown from the stands onto the field - and vice versa. In 2001, oranges pelted the Carter-Finley Stadium turf (via jubilant Maryland fans) after the Terps had devastated the Pack and sealed up an Orange Bowl bid. Last season, it was water bottles (via frustrated State fans) that soared from the stands as UM players celebrated another gut-wrenching win.

But this Saturday, the only thing thrown was when Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen threw in the proverbial towel, electing to punt the ball away with just over a minute left and the Pack up 10. There would be no miraculous comeback this time. There would be no controversial play at the end. Sigh.

It just doesn't seem fair, does it? It would've been extremely satisfying for Pack fans if State had actually ruined Maryland's season for a change, in addition to keeping their own team's season alive. But the fact of the matter is the Terps' season may have been over before this game began. Georgia Tech certainly gave Maryland some reason to doubt that it was any good; State drove the point home.

Nonetheless, a win over the hated Terps should feel good for Amato and the Pack. Amato's chest can stick out a little further now (if that's at all possible): he's now beaten every current ACC team at least once.

Well, almost. There is one team left.

ACC Rankings - One Man's Opinion
1. Miami: The last time the 'Canes visited Carter-Finley they were embarrassed on national TV (on The Worldwide Leader, nonetheless)
2. Florida State: Apparently Bobby's boys didn't like that fact that some folks were picking Virginia to knock off FSU.
3. NC State: Pack had a chance to make a national statement against Ohio State and it didn't happen. State needs to make the most of this second chance.
4. Virginia: Cavaliers can still put together a fantastic season - as long as they recover from the trashing they got in Tallahassee.
5. Virginia Tech: The Hokies looked like the Hokies of old this past Saturday. (Of course, that was against FAMU.)
6. Georgia Tech: Yellow Jackets easily took care of business against the game but turnover-prone Blue Devils.
7. Maryland: Terps could slide down the charts if their 'O' doesn't get in gear soon.
8. Wake Forest: Deacs needed a week off to regain some confidence.
9. North Carolina: (In a Jerry Seinfeld-esque voice) "What is the deal with Carolina? They're good, they're bad. They're good, they're bad. I mean, c'mon. Pick a team and stick with it!"
10. Clemson: A win at home over Utah State does not a season make.
11. Duke: Blue Devils' defense was impressive against Georgia Tech. It's too bad the offense didn't decide to show up and help out.

This Week's Games
Miami at NC State:
OK, OK: Remember all that talk about how the Ohio State game was THE biggest game in Carter-Finley Stadium history? Just joking. Actually, THIS is the biggest game in Carter-Finley history. No joking.

The atmosphere at "The Carter" should be unlike any other the venerable facility has ever seen. A Wolfpack win would throw the top of the ACC standings into chaos and would propel State back into the thick of things. And just imagine if those six (and potentially seven) points hadn't been taken off the board in Chapel Hill?

How Miami (and thus QB Brock Berlin) responds after that scintillating come-from-behind win over Louisville may be the difference. Miami 21, NC State 17

Florida State at Wake Forest: Oddly enough, this game has developed into something of a rivalry over the past few years. The Deacons seem to always play FSU tough; FSU complains about Wake's play more than any other team the Noles play (and that includes Miami and Florida). Wake is tough at Groves Stadium, but it certainly looks like FSU is hitting its stride. FSU 35, Wake Forest 14

Virginia at Duke: Just what the doctor (or in this case, the Wahoos) ordered. UVa 28, Duke 17

Maryland at Clemson: The Tigers needed a confidence booster, and they got it in the big win over Utah State. Still, QB Charlie Whitehurst wasn't exactly all-conference caliber in that game (a troubling trend). He may not need to be, however, against a Maryland team that struggles to do anything on offense. Clemson 24, Maryland 10

Prognostication Record So Far (based on picking the correct winner only): 36-7 (6-1 last week)

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