Lail: A pivotal game for the Pack

When the 2002 NC State football schedule was released, the immediate reaction by many Wolfpack fans was that the Sept. 21 game at Texas Tech would be the most pivotal game of the season.

Beat the Red Raiders, many said, and State could be looking at a 6-0 record heading into the Oct. 12 game at North Carolina, or perhaps an 8-0 slate heading into the Oct. 24 game at Clemson.

It now appears that this Saturday's game at Navy may be just as pivotal. The Middies, under wonder coach Paul Johnson, appear formidable after pasting SMU,38-7, this past weekend. Games against service academies are never easy; players at Army and Navy are determined and never quit, and they are natural fighters. If you can escape a game against Navy with a 'W' virtually unscathed, then you're in good shape (literally).

After going to Annapolis, State hosts a Wake Forest team that had trouble stopping Northern Illinois. Then comes the same Texas Tech team that was utterly embarrassed by Ohio State two weeks ago, 45-21 (it wasn't that close). The Pack then gets a breather in UMass on Sept. 28, and then two weeks to prepare for Carolina - two weeks in which to get healthy before heading down the home stretch.

Just Thinking...

Yes, it was just East Tennessee State, but to fully comprehend just how dominant NCSU was on Saturday, you have to look at the numbers.

QB Philip Rivers "only" passed for 145 yards and zero touchdowns, and he didn't give ammunition to his few detractors nor did he hurt his Heisman chances. (Honestly, a game against ETSU is not going to help or hurt anybody's chance for post-season awards.) Rivers passed the ball 12 times, and 11 of them were caught. (Granted, one of them was caught by an ETSU player, but you get the picture.) Rivers even continued to show his versatility by running it in from 4 yards out in the third quarter. .

Only one ETSU pass was completed on Saturday night, while nine different Wolfpack players made receptions.

NC State's offense snapped the ball 59 times and accumulated 370 yards of offense for an average of 6.2 yards per play. ETSU, on the other hand, made 63 plays for 81 total yards for an average of 1.29 yards per play.

ACC Football Standings - One Man's Opinion

I caught so much grief for last week's column because many readers thought my football standings were predictions. Let me make it clear that my "ACC Football Standings - One Man's Opinion" are how I rate the nine league teams THIS WEEK - not how I think they will wind up. That being said, I will begin this week making predictions on each week's ACC games. Now you really have something to call me out on!

On to the Standings...

  1. Florida State: The Seminoles didn't make an example out of Virginia, but they did show that they still have the weapons and the horses to take care of business. Chris Rix, up to this point, doesn't look like a Heisman candidate.
  2. NC State: It wasn't exactly a thing of beauty (State had several red zone chances that went awry), but the Wolfpack still blew out an inferior opponent. And Philip Rivers didn't even have to pass for 250 yards (or 200 yards, for that matter)
  3. Georgia Tech: Chan Gailey has people paying attention to the Yellow Jackets.
  4. Clemson: A close loss between the hedges is never anything to be ashamed of - especially against a really good Georgia team.
  5. Maryland: Notre Dame re-emphasized to the Terps just how important it is to have an experienced backfield.
  6. Duke: Hey, you gotta hand it to the Blue Devils. They marched into East Carolina's house and ran up, over and through the Pirates for their first win of the millennium. What? It was AT Duke? Seriously though, Carl Franks' team should be commended for withstanding an ECU rally and showing some skills at the same time. Duke may go winless the rest of the way, but it will scare a lot of teams.
  7. Virginia: The Wahoos faced a tough task in going down to Tallahassee after the Noles were somewhat embarrassed the week before, which is never fun. It wasn't fun this week for UVa, either.
  8. (tie) North Carolina & Wake Forest: It is doubtful that either one of these teams will wind up in either 8th or 9th place (though this year anything is possible). I can hear Homer Simpson now. "Hmmm... turnovers." Kudos to Carolina for hanging in the game despite not hanging onto the football. To turn the ball over nine times and STILL have a shot at the end to win is remarkable, and other ACC teams should be concerned about facing the Heels. And Wake coach Jim Grobe should be commended for having the guts to go for the win at Northern Illinois. The true test comes this week for Wake. It must rebound and prepare for an angry ECU squad.

On to the predictions...

This Week's Predictions

NC State at Navy: A good test for the Wolfpack - but not good enough. State 28, Navy 10

Georgia Tech at Connecticut: Jackets continue to show new life under Chan Gailey. Tech 43, UConn 9

Louisiana Tech at Clemson: Tommy Bowden was 8-0 as the head coach at Clemson in 2000. Since then he's 8-9. Make that 9-9, but barely. Clemson 27, La. Tech 19

Akron at Maryland: Terps rebound, 24-3

ECU at Wake Forest: Which team will recover quicker? I say Wake, 35-31

Louisville at Duke: Blue Devils continue to play inspired football, but Cardinals respond after a loss. The 'Ville 27, Duke 21

South Carolina at Virginia: Lou Holtz & Co. come up to Charlottesville and get a narrow win. Gamecocks 21, Wahoos 20

North Carolina at Syracuse: Tar Heels make improvements on ball control and continue Syracuse's woeful record against teams from North Carolina. UNC 24, Syracuse 14

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Matt Lail is the former Managing Editor of As a student at NC State, he was the Sports Editor of Technician. He has also worked for the News & Observer and as the Managing Editor of The Wolfpacker.

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