We’ll see how big Big Four football is in November.
While the Alabama-Georgia debate is stirring the college football pot right now – like does the loser of the SEC championship game between the Tide and Dawgs still make the Final Four – I am more interested in seeing if the local teams will back up toward Carolina’s level the last month of the season.
It all starts with Clemson at N.C. State Saturday at 3:30 in Raleigh, where the banged-up Wolfpack can virtually wrap up its first-ever trip to the ACC title game by beating the fourth-ranked Tigers. Personally, I don’t think it will happen, and losing would mean State has to win out and hope Clemson loses again to clinch the Atlantic Division and make it to Charlotte against whoever wins the Coastal.
Before going there, let’s look at Duke, which won its first four games of the season and hasn’t won since. Five straight losses could turn into seven or eight with trips to Army and Wake Forest and a home game against Georgia Tech. Should the Blue Devils flame out and miss another bowl game, that statue of David Cutcliffe would have to be put on hold for a while.
Wake Forest has a serious chance to be the best football team in the state before it’s all over. The Deacons are 5-3 and need one more win to reach consecutive bowl games for the first time in 10 years. They won’t get it at Notre Dame Saturday, but certainly could win at Syracuse or beat State or Duke in Winston-Salem. Wake is clearly under the radar this season.
My guess is Virginia Tech wins at Miami this weekend because the Hurricanes have virtually no home-field advantage where they play, and the Hokies will go to Georgia Tech next week to decide the Coastal Division championship. Looking ahead, I see a Virginia Tech-Clemson game in Charlotte, which could draw a record crowd to Bank of America Stadium.
Meanwhile, back in the Tar Heel state, I think the Wolfpack loses at least two more games to seriously diminish its bowl prospects. Losing to Clemson would drop the Pack to 6-3 and even make it susceptible to playing a closer-than-expected home game against Carolina on November 25.
I like both State and Wake to finish 7-5 and Duke to run the table backward and end up 4-8. Wouldn’t all that make UNC’s worst record in 28 years seem a little more palatable?