Chuck Amato doesn't appear to be living in the past.
It would be easy for the NC State football coach to vent and rage to the media about last year's controversial loss to UNC in Chapel Hill. But Amato appears to have moved on - even if many of the State fans (and some of the players) seem to have the heartbreak of the 30-24 loss fresh in their minds.
"Last year's over," Amato told the media this week.
And, to a degree, he's right. Amato and the Pack shouldn't need any further motivation to get up for their arch-rival - that's why it's a rivalry game.
"It's important to everybody involved at both schools," said Amato.
The perception among most experts, media members and fans over the past four or five years is that State is on the cusp of being the preeminent college football program in the state. That perception can trickle down and manifest itself into the attitude of players and fans; the belief in your own superiority can whittle away at the desire and hunger to beat your arch-rival. In fact, three years ago, it appeared that national powers Florida State and Maryland - not the Tar Heels - were quickly becoming State's main rivals.
But last year, things changed in the blink of an eye and brought the Pack back down to earth. The articles and talk leading up to that October game last year were not dissimilar to the hype leading up this week: How the Heels don't belong on the same field as the Pack; how a three- or four-touchdown beat down is awaiting Carolina.
We all know what happened.
"Last year rests on everybody's mind," senior defensive end Manny Lawson said recently.
While his coach wants the team to move on, Lawson appears to feel the sting of last season's upset loss - even if you can clearly hear Amato in the back of Lawson's mind saying, "Remember: Tell the media we're over what happened last year. Don't bring up last year. Nothing about last year!"
"Everybody has controversial issues about what happened," Lawson said before catching himself: "The way the team is looking at it, last year is last year. ... If we live in the past you're never going to be able to move on into the future, so why dwell on the past?"
I would hazard to guess that Amato has his players telling the media that the game last year is history - but in practice or throughout the Murphy Center I wouldn't be surprised to see reminders of last year's fateful game all over the place. Even Amato has admitted that the Carolina game is bigger than State's Gator Bowl win over Notre Dame - arguably the biggest win in school history.
The fact that Carolina is 0-2 hardly matters. The fact that it the opponent is Carolina does matter. And the fact that State wants revenge should matter more - whether the Pack says so or not.
Said Lawson: "It being your rivalry school, North Carolina, powder blue, that should be motivation enough."
ACC Football Rankings - One Man's Unimportant
1. Virginia Tech: Hokies - at this point, anyway - appear head and shoulders above everyone else in the league.
2. Florida State: FSU made a "don't forget about us"-type statement with its Sod Game win in Chestnut Hill.
3. Miami: Canes gutted one out in impressive fashion in Clemson.
4. Boston College: The Eagles may have lost to Florida State, but BC proved its mettle among college football's elite.
5. Clemson: Despite the loss, Tommy Boy's team is possibly one of the best 15 teams in the nation.
6. Virginia: Nice win for the 'Hoos up in the 'Cuse.
7. Georgia Tech: A healthy Reggie Ball is the difference between Tech challenging for a Peach Bowl or no bowl at all.
8. NC State: Pack got out of the EKU win fairly healthy - and with a huge jolt of confidence.
9. Maryland: Terps face a key game against Wake Forest this Saturday. Fridge's team appears to be at a seasonal crossroads; a win is almost necessary for a good year.
10. Wake Forest: Deacs' running game is one to keep an eye on.
11. North Carolina: Heels have been "this close" so far this year. Does Carolina "get over" on Saturday?
12. Duke: Who cares what division VMI is in? Enjoy the win, Dookies. Savor it.
This week's predictions Carolina at State: The Wolfpack needs to establish the running game early and often in order to wrack up some yards and to keep Carolina's offense off the field. The Heels haven't generated a ton of points this year, but you get the feeling that UNC's O is due. Toney Baker's team 28, Matt Baker's team 17
Colorado at Miami: About a decade ago, this would've been one heck of a game. Miami 35, Colorado 10
Boston College at Clemson: Welcome to the ACC, BC. The Eagles were more than impressive in losing at home to FSU last Saturday. But now Jim O'Brien's team faces the unenviable task of traveling to Death Valley to take on an angry (and talented) Clemson squad. Not good. Clemson 35, BC 21
Duke at Virginia: Fresh off its win over one school from the Commonwealth, Duke gets the task of traveling to Charlottesville to face one of its oldest and most hated rivals in UVa. Of course, Al "Risky Business" Groh and the Wahoos should have "All the Right Moves." Wahoos 45, Blue Devils 13
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech: Hokies are rolling, and the Jackets should just get out of the way. Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 13
Maryland at Wake Forest: Perhaps the most intriguing game of the day. The season's success for both teams could depend on what happens. Each needs a conference win to position itself for the rest of the year; Wake just appears to be closer to achieving that. Wake Forest 35, Maryland 34
This year's record . so far (based upon picking the correct winner): 5-1. (Who in the world would think Wake would beat Nebraska two weeks ago? Oh, wait. That was me.)