The Syracuse Orange will play its second ACC football game on Saturday. This week's showdown features an opponent from the capital city of North Carolina, the N.C. State Wolfpack. We know a little bit about the fellas from Raleigh because of a non-conference basketball game (that obviously didn't count) a few years back but we don't know very much about their football program, led by first-year head coach Dave Doeren. (We do know they freakin' lost to WAKE FOREST last week!)
1) Alright, not to start this Q&A off on a bad note, but what the heck happened last week against Wake Forest? I mean, us SU fans have been watching the ACC pretty closely and the Demon Deacons have not impressed us one bit. What went wrong?
Backing The Pack: Oh, just the usual Winston-Salem business. For some reason NC State is terrible there. Wake looked sharp, made fewer mistakes and, uh, yeah I can't explain any of it. That's definitly a bad Wake Forest team. NC State has beaten the Deacs by a combined score of 75-9 in the last two meetings in Raleigh. We don't get it either.
2) Now, there's a chance Week 1 starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell could return to the lineup. If he can play how much of a difference do you think he's going to make? What the difference between Mitchell and Pete Thomas, who has been N.C. State's starting quarterback?
It's virtually impossible to speculate about his impact, because the kid didn't even make it through one quarter of football before the injury. His presence would help diversify the offense, because he's much more in the mold of quarterback the coaching staff prefers. He spent a lot of his last season with Arkansas at wide receiver, which is indicative of his athleticism ... and also perhaps of his questionable passing skills. But he's a perfect 3-for-3 this season!
I have to think he'll be more effective than Thomas, who is stuck in sort of a square-peg-round-hole situation. Thomas is a decent scrambler, I suppose, but that's really not his game. He transferred into the program when Tom O'Brien was still the coach and expected to run that offense, not some read-option/pistol mashup.
3) Last week, Syracuse fans were introduced to a very sensitive group of Clemson football fans. Though things were pretty civil during the week, we left last week's blow out to the Tigers a bit surprised at how sensitive they are -- they didn't like our jokes and we tell lots of them here. Should we crank back the sarcasm with you folks too or are you a pretty laid back group?
I can only speak to my particular corner of the tubes, but by all means, bring all the jokes you have. Life as an NC State fan is often pretty difficult, so laughing beats the alternative.
4) Since this is our first year in the ACC and we're getting used to everyone please tell me a few things about N.C. State fans, like: What do you like? What don't you like? What don't you really, really like? If we're Raleigh, what the heck should be do there -- P.S. we like our beer and food.
We love some tailgatin'. And barbecue (which is a thing you eat, not an event you attend, per southern decree). If you would like to start a food-related argument, simply state your preference for either eastern- or western-style NC barbecue and watch the sparks fly.
We do not like Maryland, those other triangle schools--their names escape me--or being forced to stay in football stadiums during halftime. (At Carter-Finley, you can leave and still come back in.)
We enjoy aiding every real or potential NCAA investigation into rivals and we will go so far as to make flow charts to prove it. No, really. This came from the PJ Hairston arrest. And that didn't even strike anybody at Pack Pride (where it originated) as, say, a smidge over-the-top. This sort of thing is not my cup of tea, personally, but we have an unsettling number of fans who seem to live for it.
NC State's stadium is off campus and located by the state fairgrounds, which lends itself to a great tailgating scene. If you're attending, I highly recommend attempting to acquire a parking pass to maximize your tailgating experience. (Your options are limited otherwise.)
That leaves few food options in the immediate vicinity, but it's a trade-off we're cool with. There is a Backyard Bistro on Trinity Rd. (I believe this was a meeting spot for Cuse fans when y'all played us in hoops a couple of years back) where you could grab a bite and a beer and then walk to the stadium, but that is not recommended. The food especially.
You can get a taste of some solid NC BBQ at The Pit downtown, and I also highly recommend Poole's Diner. But there are a slew of options, depending on your preferences. I'd just head for Fayetteville Street and see what strikes your fancy.
Mitch's Tavern and Player's Retreat are a couple of old-school bars worth hitting if you want the full NCSU experience. Both can be found on the stretch of Hillsborough Street across from campus.
5) Are you guys as ready for basketball season as we are? Because honestly if Syracuse loses to you guys on Saturday the interest in football around here -- at least with he majority of fans -- goes from Game Day watching to not even caring. Is this the same case with you guys?
I can understand you guys feeling that way, what with you basketball team being good and all. This is likely a transitional year--to put it kindly--for Wolfpack hoops, so the excitement isn't what it was this time last year. It's a talented team, but really young, and totally unproven. I'm looking forward to the season, don't get me wrong, but I'm not putting football back in the closet until I have to.
6) Prediction time. Looking at the point spread right now, the game opened with N.C. State as 4.5-point favorites and now has you guys as a touchdown favorite. (Didn't see that coming.) Is that a fair assessment coming into the game and what you're overall prediction?
A lot will depend on who is playing quarterback, and with Mitchell questionable, I'm not sure what to expect. Actually, if Mitchell were 100%, I still wouldn't know what the heck to expect. NC State was favored by like 10 points to beat Wake and lost by 15.
And our injury situation, generally speaking, is not improving. I expect NC State to play better at home, but I'd be surprised to see the Wolfpack cover that seven-point spread, especially if Thomas is at the helm.
So I guess what I'm saying is ... NC State 24, Syracuse 20? Yeah sure why not.