Time for our weekly "How They Do?" feature, but first a look at bowl eligibility:
Qualified: Clemson, Duke, Florida State
One Win Away: N. C. State
Not Eligible: North Carolina
After each weekend, I have been keeping track of how our future opponents' seasons are unfolding while also keeping track of how past opponents react to not having us to kick around anymore.
How to read the post: A capsule for each Pack opponent, including the team's record and most recent result, is listed under the heading "Week 1," "Week 2," "Week 3," etc. based on what week during the season that the Pack plays that opponent. The future/past opponent is listed in bold.
Week 1: #1 Alabama 44 (7-0) 41, Tennessee (3-4) 13
Make it 1-11 in their last 12 SEC games for the Volunteers, and 0-14 against ranked opponents under the molten-seated Derek Dooley. We all know about Alabama's defense, but howabout the offense? That's 7 straight games of 30 points or more to open the season for the first time in school history. A. J. McCarron needed just 22 attempts to throw for 306 yards and 4 scores. Meanwhile Tyler Bray blew chunks against elite competition yet again (13-for-27, 184 with 2 INTs). Between the immaturity he displayed off the field in the offseason and his uneven performance on the field, Bray's draft stock has to be plummeting. The junior's QB rating against ranked opponents is 106.34. For comparison's sake, UConn's Chandler Whitmer has a 120.69 rating.
Week 2: Syracuse (3-4) 40, UCONN (3-5) 10
Nothing says we've quit on you like losing by 30 in your head coach's return to his old school. Poor Paul Pasqualoni. The Huskies managed -6 yards rushing en route to falling to 0-3 in the Big Least.
Week 3: South Alabama (2-5) 37, Florida Atlantic (1-6) 34 (2 OT)
It took double overtime, but SOAL got off the schneid in Sun Belt conference play. The Jags rallied from a two-touchdown 4th quarter deficit to force free football. Good for them.
Week 4: The Citadel (4-3)
It was the bye week for the Bulldogs.
Week 5: #14 Florida State (7-1, 4-1) 33, Miami (4-4, 3-2) 20
Despite rushing for just 29 yards, the Hurricanes kept this one close into the 4th quarter before wilting on defense. The Noles won the final frame 17-7 to extend a 3-point lead to 13. Miami, losers of 3 straight since its win over the Wolfpack, actually scored the game's first 10 points. Alas, there would be no solid for Wolfpack Nation. State still has to win out to ensure a finish ahead of the Seminoles.
If Duke doesn't collapse it might be a moot point, but Thursday, November 1st's Virginia Tech-Miami tilt may well decide the coastal. The Blue Devils are about to go through a stretch of @FSU, Clemson, @Georgia Tech, so not collapsing is no given. Yup, I'm thinking 3 or 4 teams will end up tied at 4-4 and then ACC beat writers' heads will explode as they try to untangle the tiebreakers.
Week 6: #14 Florida State (7-1, 4-1) 33, Miami (4-4, 3-2) 20
The Seminoles spotted the Canes 10 points and the game seemed in doubt going into the fourth, but the box score shows FSU domination. The Noles had 5 rushers gain at least 30 yards and outrushed their Sunshine State rival 218-29, helping them roll up a 189-yard advantage in total offense. The Noles settled for 5 Dustin Hopkins' field goal tries (he made 4). If they get 7 instead of 3 on those drives it's a blowout.
Florida State plays at Virginia Tech on a Thursday night ESPN game (one of two straight for the Hokies). Despite Va. Tech's free fall, this probably represents the best chance for the Seminoles to suffer a second setback in league play.
Week 7: Bye week. We were probably just rusty in week 8 coming off the bye. Amiright?
Week 8: N. C. State (5-2, 2-1) 20, Maryland (4-3, 2-1) 18
The hiring of Randy Edsall was largely panned. There's his bland, conservative reputation and, of course, the lame, clichéd pyramid. But, he took UConn from the FCS level to BCS respectability, and look how the Huskies have fared without him. And now, after a rough transition year, he has Maryland headed in the right direction. A 2-9 Maryland team nearly spoiled our season last year. The same undermanned Terp squad almost did it again this year. If State played as hard against Maryland as it played against us the last two seasons, both games would have been blowouts instead of alcoholism-inducing nail-biters.
If I were a turtle fan, the thing that would concern me about Edsall and staff after Saturday's game: why were they starting the team's third best quarterback? The Perry Hills' injury may be just the boost the Terps needed during the stretch run to ensure they get bowl eligible.
Amazingly, after playing one good half of football this season, the Pack still control their destiny. That may be the strongest testament to the suck of the league I've heard yet. If the secondary continues to not be pictured in the same shot as the opponent's wide receivers during last-minute drives, State's run as a contender will most certainly end soon.
Week 9: Duke (6-2, 3-1) 33, North Carolina (5-3, 2-2) 30
Confession: I cheered harder for Duke Saturday than I did for State. One of the many Hole fans in my family even "defriended" me on Facebook after I proclaimed that I would pull for the Taliban over UNC. (I'm sure I was probably kidding, though the unlikelihood that the Taliban and UNC will actually ever face one another in an athletic competition means we will never know.)
I have no lack of allegiance for the Pack, but Saturday's lackluster effort just made it hard to get excited. It was more relief than excitement, whereas the back-and-forth battle (witnessed by like 123 people) at Wallace-Wade was just...awesome. It's easy to root for a perennial cellar dweller making their once in a blue moon Cinderella run, and it is even easier to watch "the Flagship" continue to go down in flames.
As for the game, the star-studded, vaunted Tarheel D surrendered 510 yards, including 234 (!) on the ground. The bright spot for UNC: Italian Stallion Giovani Bernard was his usual studly self, gaining a combined 209 yards on the ground and through the air with a touchdown rushing and receiving.
The Blue Devils have the 50th ranked offense according to the Football Outsiders' FEI rankings. Louisville, ranked 22nd in offensive FEI, put up 462 yards against the Heels, including 183 on the ground. The Pack, thanks to squaring off against 3 of the nation's top defenses in FSU, Maryland, and UConn, are ranked 38th despite a number of low-scoring performances. The Pack typically can be counted on to show up to play against the Tarheels, so perhaps this is the week the offense finally gets untracked, as UNC has built whatever reputation it has defensively against the Idahoes of the world while getting torched against better competition.
Bulletin board material: Despite losing 5 straight in the series, UNC opened as a 9-point favorite (Vegas has since moved the spread to -7). This will be the 6th consecutive year that State was a dog.
Week 10: Wake Forest (4-3, 2-3) 16, Virginia (2-6, 0-4) 10
The Hoos dropped to 98th in the nation in scoring offense (21.5) after managing just 10 points at home against the Demon Deacons. Virginia has lost 6 in a row but will surely pull it together for a post-bye week revival two Saturdays from now in Raleigh.
The Hoos have to be scratching their heads a bit; they won the total yardage battle 301-213 and Phil Sims looked solid enough at quarterback (22-for-39, 253 yards, TD/INT), but the turnover bug (-3 for the game) continued to be their undoing.
Week 11: Wake Forest (4-3, 2-3) 16, Virginia (2-6, 0-4) 10
Ya'll remember when Tanner Price used to be a good quarterback? Despite Price (7-for-19, 102 yards) mistaking the Hoo D for FSU, and despite going 1-for-15 on 3rd down, Wake won this one to keep its bowl aspirations alive and well. The Deacs have Boston College and Vanderbilt at home, so bowling would seem to be a good probability. And of course Price will probably come out of his slump in Raleigh, making that one winnable too. The talent gap between Wake and future opponents Clemson and Notre Dame makes a major upset unlikely, but it is a cool position to be in for Grobe's Deacs; they have the chance to spoil Clemson's bid for a second consecutive ACC title and spoil Notre Dame's bid for a national championship.
Week 12: #19 Clemson (6-1, 3-1) 38, Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2) 17
The Hokies held the Tigers to a very pedestrian 4.5 yards per play, but as beneficiaries of 4 turnovers, Clemson often did not need to mount much of a drive to get points. Jonathan Meeks took a pick from overhyped and underproductive Logan Thomas for 74 yards and a score to help the Tigers get an impressive point total despite a relatively unimpressive day for the offense. DeAndre Hopkins, one of only 3 Clemson players to notch a catch in the game, hauled in his 9th touchdown reception of the season.
Since the infamous punt game in 2010, Clemson is averaging 34.3 points per game against all opponents not named N. C. State. Including that game, the Tigers are averaging 13.5 points against the Pack. If State can somehow stave off the whole losing thing between now and November 17th, there could be a really fun and fascinating thing going down in Death Valley.
Week 13: Georgia Tech (3-4, 2-3) 37, Boston College (1-6, 0-4) 17
It was 28-3 at halftime before the Yellow Jackets retracted their stingers. What position will Spaz be coaching for the Wolfpack next fall?