16-17 2012. 24-28 2010. 20-24 2006. 15 -20 2005. FSU losses. It’s NC State week. In all of the losses cited, the most recent in this rivalry, we were the prohibitive favorites. It’s NC State week, and we are all still relishing the most impressive win by our program in many years. And the following week, another top ten opponent and one of our fiercest rivalries comes into play. Simply put – THIS IS A TRAP GAME! I think everyone would agree that FSU was clearly the more talented team in any of those prior years. And NC State was vanilla unimpressive coming into every one of those games also. NC State and Wake Forest have been thorns in our side. We tend to overlook both of those teams and therein lies the danger. The best time to talk smack is when you’re raising the trophy and your opponents have been beaten into submission. At that point, they have no response. Clemson sits there today, Maryland too. But NC State holds a different vantage point. They can look back on history, as recently as last year, with quiet confidence knowing that given the right circumstances and opportunity, they can take down a far superior opponent. Mere talent often isn’t sufficient to win a game. History proves it. Rankings, past results, recruiting stars, none of those really will matter come Saturday. The ONLY thing that will be relevant is if we come to play football. Vacation time comes in late January and February, not in the middle of the season. It’s been a lot of weeks of hard work, it’s showing, and I don’t mean to diminish the results one bit, I feel proud, confident, and very pleased. This team can win, this team can play with anyone in the country, but by the same token, if this team lies down on the field and doesn’t give an effort, it can be beaten by a less talented and more motivated team from North Carolina. It happens. Again and again it has happened. Just a word of caution because this game is setting up like a trap. Miami is around the corner, but we have to ride the Alley first. And the scenery along the Alley can become mundane and repetitive after a while. If we stay alert, we will reach the destination. Fall asleep at the wheel, and we’ll be hoping that we can still function well enough to call our insurance agent. One other note, a few years ago when we played Oklahoma in Norman, I finally realized how our team had digressed from the dynasty years. It had been a long time since I felt we were out played physically, but particularly in the matchups between our linemen and theirs, and their receivers vs. our secondary, they were simply bigger and stronger. We were dominated. Last year too at the Florida game, I felt like we lost the physicality battle, particularly in the fourth quarter. But this year, I am very pleased to see that we are heading in the right direction. Alabama is the current version of a college football dynasty, but I truly believe after watching the game Saturday night, that we are back on that track. The defense made its turnaround against Maryland, and Kelvin Benjamin came of age in the Clemson game. Nick O’Leary was Nick O’Leary, and our physical prowess was on full display. The only area of weakness that I see is our punter and special teams in general, but both of those are showing signs of improving. This coaching staff is awesome, we are very fortunate to have them and their influence can be seen all over the field. Go NOLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!