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Okay, let’s see what ya got, NC State

This is a big potential pivot point in the slog through the ever-arduous Atlantic.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

I think we’re all ready to believe, to just go ahead and jump headlong into this football season, even if we’re well aware of the flaws that exist within this NC State team. There are prominent flaws that are kinda hard to miss. But at the same time, the Wolfpack enters Thursday night in excellent position at 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the league.

A lot of us probably figured NC State would be 4-1 at this point, but probably would have assumed a win over South Carolina and a loss at Florida State. That the reverse happened is actually a bonus, since, y’know, South Carolina isn’t in the ACC.

Regardless, Thursday night is a big opportunity for the Wolfpack, and the environment is going to be electric. If State can handle these factors and keep its head on straight, it should be in decent shape. If not—if Mr. Heisman happens to serve a couple of quick early punches to the gut—then it’s easy to see everything crumbling down quickly.

NC State has proven resilient, though, which is something you would expect out of a veteran team. The opening-week setback will not end up defining this group’s season in any way. And now they have a real opportunity to get ahead, and perhaps make possible what we would have considered pretty much unimaginable coming into the year, no matter how much we liked this roster.

Win on Thursday night and State has a game in hand on both Florida State and Louisville, and while this doesn’t change the fact that Clemson is a horrifying 40-foot-tall beast, this would rather alter the Pack’s division title odds significantly.

Lose and the odds against a surprise run to Charlotte stack higher. Not necessarily a death blow now that the back stretch of the schedule is looking a bit softer than it had prior to the season, but it would effectively serve as much, because Clemson.

Beating Louisville tonight might not end up mattering at all—because Clemson—but it would be a symbolic milestone for Dave Doeren. Nabbing both FSU and Louisville in the same year is meaningful progress to the people who are watching most closely—namely, the recruits who rightly monitor the trajectory of every program they are considering.

Thursday night matters a lot, for a bunch of reasons. State hasn’t been in this spot for a while, and man, it is good to be back. Let’s see what this team’s got, and let’s try to enjoy a little bit of this whole deal, too.