Dear Coach Amato (may I call you Chuck? The Chest? OK, Coach it is):
On behalf of Wolfpack Nation, let me start off by saying thank you for what you have done for NC State. October is winding down, and NC State fans are not only talking about football, but also talking bowl games. And not just normal, right-after-Christmas, crap-sponsored bowl games either. Big bowl games. Major bowl games. The kind that are named after Mexican parties, tea-sweetener or "real" fruit. ("Tangerine" still sounds made-up to me.)
In years past, the coming of fall in Raleigh meant it was time to talk basketball. Keep in mind that I'm talking about a school that - as we're all well aware - had not been to the NCAA men's basketball tournament since the last time Saddam was giving us headaches. But still, each Halloween, most State fans began turning their attention to basketball. Not this year.
Yes, Pack fans are looking forward to what Coach Sendek's team has in store. Can they repeat the tremendous successes of next season? Undoubtedly. But that's the beauty of it all. On one hand is a basketball team that should challenge for the ACC title and make a deep run in the "Big Dance," and still folks can't get enough football. Talk about a transformation.
No, NC State is not a football school. Yet. One has to have tradition to be considered a certain kind of school. State has one of the best basketball traditions in America. But you have certainly done your part - as a player, assistant and now head coach - to help NCSU gain gridiron tradition.
The best part about it is you're just getting started. And that's the purpose of this letter, Coach. Please understand that State fans aren't expecting a national title this year (though it would be nice). Understand that fans aren't expecting an ACC title this year, though most believe it's the Pack's to lose. There's still a lot of football left, Coach, starting with tomorrow night's game against your old buddy Tommy. We understand that the team could still drop a game or two between now and 2003, but just remember that everyone's behind you. Well, almost everyone. To be sure there are those that would love to see you - and NC State - fail. But a few losses from here on out would be far from failure.
With all due respect to Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke, the real season starts at Clemson. And that's when the real fans will come forth. We're a loyal, communal bunch, us NC State fans, and we stick together through the good times and the bad. We stand up for our own.
In closing, let me ask you to do two favors tomorrow night in Clemson. When the game's over, Coach, be sure to shake Mike O'Cain's hand and sincerely thank him for the work he did in getting Philip Rivers to NC State. O'Cain is a fine gentleman who represented NC State well. And finally, Coach, smile and shake Tommy's hand and wish him well. And tell him you'll be a reference if he needs one.
ACC Standings - One Man's Opinion
- NC State: Pack can start getting respect Thursday night.
- Florida State: For maybe the first time in a long time, most of the college football world will be pulling FOR FSU. (The Noles take on Notre Dame, in case you didn't know.)
- Virginia: Teams should try to get Al Groh's team to only play one half.
- Maryland: Terps are playing like the defending ACC champs.
- Clemson: Tommy faces a "state"-ment game on Thursday.
- Wake Forest: Deacs shot themselves in the foot in Death Valley.
- Georgia Tech: Jackets look to ruin the nice roll that Virginia's on.
- North Carolina: When it rains, it pours.
- Duke: Perhaps the "best worst" ACC team in a long time.
This Week's Predictions:
NC State at Clemson (Thursday): Two teams known in recent years for explosive offenses also boast formidable defenses as well. The key match-up will be Clemson QB Willie Simmons and his ability (or inability, whichever it may be) to torch the NCSU secondary. The Pack DBs have to bring their collective A-plus game. NC State 35, Clemson 28
Maryland at Duke: Duke has been giving almost everyone fits this year. No reason to think that will stop. Maryland 27, Duke 24
Notre Dame at Florida State: Notre Dame's offense has struggled at times this season, yet it continues to find ways to win games. However, the luck of the Irish will finally run out in Tallahassee. FSU 21, Notre Dame 17
Virginia at Georgia Tech: The Jackets are just another team in Virginia's way. UVa 30, Tech 14
North Carolina at Wake Forest: UNC has motivation on its side (Wake stunned the Heels last year in Chapel Hill), but Wake's offense will be too much for UNC's porous defense. It could be a very long day for John Bunting's troops. Wake Forest 40, North Carolina 21
Matt Lail is the former Managing Editor of ACCToday.com. 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.