Down the ACC stretch, N.C. State defeated Florida State and battled Florida State’s shadow all the way to payday.
Today is payday, kicking off about 3:30 p.m. in College Park, Md.
Virginia Tech wrapped up the Coastal Division last Saturday, the same day resurgent State defeated North Carolina for the fourth straight time in the four-year chess match between O’Brien and Butch Davis. A while later, FSU knocked Maryland out of the Atlantic race 30-16.
No. 21 State holds the head-to-head advantage in any tiebreaker with FSU (6-2 ACC), which will close out today against Florida and needs a Wolfpack stumble to reach the championship game in Charlotte next Saturday night.
The Wolfpack, which last won the ACC in 1979, has everything to compete for in the regular-season climax.
â€œI know that there is enough character in our team that they will get back up and play,â€ he said. â€œWe’re still in contention for a lot of bowls.â€
Friedgen calculated the value of a State/bowl sweep and informed the Terps of his findings: â€œIf we were 9-4 this year, coming from 2-10, I’d say that’s a pretty big accomplishment. I said, â€˜You don’t deserve to be 7-5. You worked too hard to be 7-5.’â€
The 6-3 O’Brien replaced injured starter Jamarr Robinson in late September. The Terps have won five of O’Brien’s eight starts, largely because he has passed for 1,840 yards (13th among all freshmen in ACC history) and 17 touchdowns (one of Maryland’s five best seasons regardless of class).
A key to quarterback O’Brien’s success â€” two sacks or fewer in nine games â€” might become the key issue against linebacker Nate Irving and State’s blitzing defense. Maryland’s bruised offensive line suffered two more injuries last week, drawing another freshman into the mix and forcing position switches.
The Maryland formula doesn’t seem to faze State linebacker Audie Cole. â€œWe don’t worry about our defense,â€ he said. â€œWhen we look at them, we can figure out what’s going to happen before it happens.â€
Maryland might have trouble knowing what Russell Wilson, the dynamic State quarterback, will do beforehand. He’s a master of the scramble, especially when tight pass coverage lures him into improvisation. Wilson ranks first in ACC passing yards (271 a game) and total offense (302), with 24 touchdown passes.
The Wolfpack will travel for the third time in four weeks, a closeout month that opened with a distressing fade against Clemson.
â€œThey believe something good’s going to happen,â€ O’Brien said. â€œThat’s been the history of our season so far. Something good has happened for us.â€