That was ugly. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’ about it. NC State looked sluggish, slow, and just generally inferior to Notre Dame on Saturday. Do I think this team is as poor as the product they put on the field in South Bend? Absolutely not. But given the combination of the Wolfpack’s performance this weekend and the results of State’s past and future opponents, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our perceptions of this season and team.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Notre Dame is the best team that NC State has played so far this year. Barring which Clemson team shows up in Raleigh on Saturday, it will probably be the toughest team State plays all year. So there’s that, and it is what it is. It’s also a great barometer with which to gauge the current overall state of the program. But let’s shelve that topic for now. I mainly want to focus on State’s conference slate. (One other out-of-conference note, though: The South Carolina loss keeps looking less and less bad with the Gamecocks now at 6-2 overall... just don’t look at how they’re winning)
Entering the season, it was assumed that the schedule after the Clemson game would be relatively easy sailing with games against Boston College, Wake Forest, and UNC-CH. The games against Florida State, Louisville, and Clemson were the consensus toughest portion of the schedule. Here’s what we know now:
- The games vs Florida State and Louisville which initially looked like two of the three toughest ACC games now look like two of the three easiest. Florida State can’t score and Louisville can’t stop opponents from scoring.
- Syracuse is... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Pittsburgh: probably not a bowl team, but also not a bad team
- Clemson bounced back from the poor performance at Syracuse with a dominating win over Georgia Tech. Clemson: still very good at football
- Boston College flipped a switch three weeks ago and no longer looks like a pushover. Had they not staked themselves to an 0-3 start in ACC play, this team would be a contender
- Wake Forest is still dangerous. The Deacs travel to Notre Dame next week; a game that should be a good test of how the Deacs and Pack stack up against each other
- UNC-CH is still very bad at doing football things, but they did take Miami down to the wire (but Miami is over-rated)
So given the above, you have to view the wins over Florida State and Louisville differently than at the time of their happening. The back half of the conference schedule is probably tougher than the front half. The main questions:
- Was this Wolfpack team really as good as we thought?
- Is an ACC record greater than 5-3 still attainable?
The answers to these questions won’t truly be known until the end of November, but given what transpired in South Bend on Saturday and what has happened around the ACC in the month of October, it is very reasonable to wonder if our assumptions of this team and season were on point. November offers fresh opportunities for the Wolfpack, but we will have to wait to find out if this is a team that can take advantage of those opportunities.
Either way, 4-0 is 4-0 and I’d rather be that than anything else right now.