Lail: What Gives?

What in the name of Rick Majerus is going on? NC State (4-0) enters Saturday's game at Texas Tech (2-1) a slight underdog, yet the Wolfpack is the one with the national ranking, not the Red Raiders. In fact, as rankings go, the two teams are light years apart.

Consider the number of votes that they received in the latest polls. The Pack received 583 points in the latest Associated Press poll; Texas Tech earned a whopping four. Not 400 mind you. Four. On the coaches' side of things, State received 555 votes, while Tech received zero. Nada.

Is NC State THAT much better than Texas Tech? It's doubtful, but we'll see on Saturday. Any knowledgeable college football fan knows that Texas Tech is at least as good as -- if not better than -- Bowling Green (2 votes in the coaches' poll), Boise State (1), Louisiana Tech (1) or Purdue (1).

So what does this tell us about the polls? Well, it emphasizes what we already knew: the coaches' poll is ridiculous. Many coaches don't even vote themselves; they have a sports information director do it for them. And coaches generally only have enough time to focus on their opponent that week, let alone what's happening between, say, two West Coast teams. Heck, most coaches barely have time to sleep because they're too busy worrying about their OWN team.

What we also learn from the above is this: NC State may be both overrated and underrated.


Think about it. The Pack is underrated because any team that's ranked that much higher in the polls than its opponent shouldn't be an underdog - even if the game is away.

But the Pack could also be considered overrated - which is a very good thing. (Bear with me here.) State has played just one televised game so far (against New Mexico), and its opponents haven't exactly been of the big-name ilk. (To hear rival fans say it, the Pack has beaten the equivalent of high school teams, but at least the Pack has WON all of its games, but that's for another time and column.) There have been few TV highlights available from NC State games for the voters to see, only box scores and wire reports. But somehow each week - despite little to no coverage, against mediocre opponents, in a so-called weak conference - Chuck Amato's team continues to rise up the Top 25 rankings.

Each week, voters look at the list of teams across the country and make a conscious effort to mark NC State among the very best. The name "NC State" has left its imprint on the minds of the voters the same way "Washington State" or "LSU" or "Texas A&M" does.

That's a great position to be in.

"That's why we're in it: to win, to get ranked, to move up in the rankings as high as we can," said Amato. "We know we're kind of a new entity in the Top 25. If we lose, we can tumble real quick and real far."

In one way, NC State has arrived as a top-flight college football program. The Pack is being given the benefit of the doubt nationally, which has rarely happened to an NC State team. On the other hand, there's still work to do. The Pack still has some convincing to do. A win on Saturday wouldn't hurt.

ACC Standings -- One Man's Opinion

  1. Florida State: FSU reclaimed its birthright with its domination of Maryland, 37-10.
  2. NC State: The Pack passed Big Test No. 1 against Wake Forest - and did so with flying colors.
  3. Clemson: Everybody's talkin' 'bout that Tiger 'D.' But ya know what? Willie & the Boys can still put up some points.
  4. Georgia Tech: If Tech responds, as it should, last Saturday's loss to Clemson can be a distant memory.
  5. Virginia: The Cavs get better every week. I know I said that last week, but it's true.
  6. (tie) North Carolina and Wake Forest: Both UNC and Wake put up valiant efforts last week only to be overmatched in crunch time.
  7. Maryland: Can E.J. Henderson play offense?
  8. Duke: A nice try against Northwestern by the Devils, only to come up short.

This Week's Prediction

NC State at Texas Tech: How will the recent rash of disciplinary troubles in Lubbock affect the Red Raiders? Depends. Some teams use turmoil to come together; some teams get distracted easily. Look for Mike Leach's team to come out strong against State. In the end, however, the Pack's DBs are too fast (and will be even faster on Astroturf) and too confident to give Tech any edge. NC State 44, Texas Tech 31

Ball State at Clemson: The Tigers may be looking ahead to their upcoming game with FSU, but it won't matter. Clemson 36, Ball State 3

Wake Forest at Purdue: Two things came out of NC State's 32-13 win over Wake last week. The first is that the Pack is a team to be reckoned with. The other is that so is Wake. The Deacons' quest for a solid season is far from over. Wake Forest 23, Purdue 21

Akron at Virginia: Al Groh's team is on Cloud Nine after thumping South Carolina. Akron doesn't stand a zipping chance. Virginia 27, Akron 7

BYU at Georgia Tech: Chan Gailey's team will rebound against BYU, but it sure as heck won't be easy. Georgia Tech 28, BYU 27

Eastern Michigan at Maryland: The Terps are reeling, and it will show. Maryland 21, E. Michigan 14

Duke at Florida State: The Noles have had their way with the Blue Devils in recent years. But then again, who hasn't? Duke has confidence - despite last week's loss - that it can put up a fight against FSU. In the end, though, the Noles have too many weapons. What else is new? Florida State 44, Duke 21

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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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