A question for UNC and State, rather be lucky or good?
Yep, that’s the poser for the Tar Heels and Wolfpack. Would you rather be lucky or good?
Well, last Saturday, both teams had to face that question. North Carolina had a commanding halftime lead at Appalachian. Most in the crowd of 40,000 were considering the point in the second half when they’d beat the traffic and start heading east. Only, the Mounties had other plans. Appalachian scored 40 points in the fourth quarter and came within a play of upsetting UNC. The Heels held on for dear life, 63-61.
On the other side of the state was another barnburner. The then 13th-ranked Wolfpack had overcome a sluggish start to lead underdog ECU 21-7 at the half. It looked like N.C. State might cruise to a win. Well, you can’t go just by looks. ECU totally outplayed the Pack in the second half, but then old lady luck entered the ball game. With just a couple minutes left, the Pirates scored to bring it to 21-20. ECU’s talented kicker, Owen Daffer, then jerked the PAT left to leave the stadium crowd of 51,000 stunned. That should have done it. But on a day when State looked horrible, ECU had one more chance to win a game they deserved to win. The Pirates drove the ball to the Pack 25-yard line with just five ticks left on the clock. This gave Daffer the opportunity to win the game on a 41-yard try. But the Pirate kicker pushed his kick wide right, which left the Purple People in utter amazement. While the kicking game did ECU in, that was about the only facet of the game they did not dominate.
On the national scene, while many powers open the season with cupcakes, several of CFB’s top teams played another top-ranked team. Most impressive were the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs, who scored touchdowns on their first six possessions. Before turning the game over to their backups late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs had run up a 49-3 lead. Georgia looked exactly like the team that had whipped Michigan and Alabama in the CFP in January, only better on offense.
The other big game was Ohio State’s 21-10 win over Notre Dame in a battle of top five powers. While Notre Dame put up a fight on defense, they didn’t have the Buckeyes’ offense to pull off the upset. Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia are widely regarded as the top three teams in the land, and nothing that occurred Saturday would change that. Alabama did host a cupcake in Utah State, winning 55-0 over a team that didn’t have the size, speed, or depth to play at this level.
And now it’s time to toss the magic darts and prognosticate this weekend’s big games.
WAKE FOREST AT VANDERBILT: The long-standing SEC doormat is off to a 2-0 start with wins over Hawaii and Elon, a close game. Top QB or not, Fearless likes the Preachers to get out of Nashville with a win. Could be closer than you think. Wake Forest 34, Vanderbilt 24.
DUKE AT NORTHWESTERN: Duke opened with a 30-0 win over Temple. Yea Duke! But this opponent is a pretty good team and has the home field edge. Duke could keep this close enough to pull off an upset. Northwestern 31, Duke 23.
TENNESSEE AT PITTSBURGH: An early big test for both teams. Pitt whipped the Vols in Knoxvegas last year, but that was with an NFL first-round quarterback. Still, Pitt looked good in their opening win over WVU. Tennessee fans think this is the year to move up the totem pole. To do so, they must win games like this. This is a toss-up and could be a great game. The SEC went unbeaten in week one, but can UT add to that total? Tennessee 27, Pitt 26.
FURMAN AT CLEMSON: Just five days after playing Georgia Tech, the Tigers host neighbor Furman. The schedule tells Clemson fans the Paws aren’t particularly worried about either game. But Clemson struggled to get by Tech last year. No struggle this time as the No. 4 Tigers get the front row seat on the roller coaster. Whew! Clemson 45, Furman 7.
VIRGINIA AT ILLINOIS: Despite a disappointing loss to Indiana, the Illini are still a decent team at home and can win this game. But Virginia may have the ammo to pull this off. Close, it’s Virginia 30, Illinois 28, but it’s even on the board.
WESTERN CAROLINA AT GEORGIA TECH: The Ramblin Wreck, like Clemson, is playing twice in five days. The difference is Clemson has the depth to do it. Still, Western won’t pose a threat on the flats. Georgia Tech 48, Western Carolina 17.
BOSTON COLLEGE AT VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies were dealt a bad loss at Old Dominion, and it wasn’t a fluke win for the Monarchs. So this game is huge for Tech’s season. This is a game they cannot lose—or can they? Another toss-up, Fearless flips the coin for Boston College, but its dead even (meaning, don’t bet on this game.) Virginia Tech 28, Boston College 27.
NORTH CAROLINA AT GEORGIA STATE: After getting out of Boone with just enough gas to get back home, the Tar Heels have a date with a sneaky-good Panther team. Georgia has so many D-I high school players each year that some of them wind up in downtown Atlanta. The Tar Heels murdered Georgia State by six TD’s last year. And while Fearless thinks UNC may score six touchdowns in this one, the defense (what defense?) only has one direction to go. UNC 54, Georgia State 31.
OLD DOMINION AT EAST CAROLINA: Other than the afore-mentioned kicking game problems that cost them the State game, the Pirates outplayed the Pack in every phase of the game. They beat State on both sides of the line of scrimmage. QB Holton Ahlers outplayed the pre-season ACC P-O-Y, Devin Leary, How will this disappointment affect ECU against a team that beat Virginia Tech? Could be a slow start for the Pirates, but Fearless thinks there will be a fast finish. ECU 31, ODU 27.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN AT N.C. STATE: Okay, so State stunk at ECU, and they apparently don’t have a direct snap to the QB in their playbook. So what, they have this game to correct their miscues. Fearless thinks this Pack team will look sharp, worthy of a ranking. N.C. State 48, CSU 17.
OTHER TOP GAMES THIS WEEK: UCF over Louisville (close), Ohio State over Arkansas State (cupcake city), Miami over Southern Miss, Alabama over Texas (by a lot), Arkansas over South Carolina, Notre Dame over Marshall, Texas A & M over Appalachian, Georgia over Samford, and Florida over Kentucky (close and the game of the week).
TOFF TOP 10: 1. Alabama and Georgia (tie) 3. Ohio State 4. Clemson 5. Michigan 6. Texas A & M 7. USC 8. Florida 9. Notre Dame 10. Oklahoma. Also, 20. Pitt, 23. N.C. State.
Southeast Sports Syndicate. 2022.