<
>

It's time to pay attention to NC State

Meet your flavor of the week in the ACC -- NC State.

Watching the Wolfpack jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter against Cincinnati last night, NC State looked like the best team yet in the ACC.

Yep, I said that.

Granted, Cincinnati was doing what it could to help, it wasn't a ranked opponent, and the game turned sloppy for both teams with too many turnovers and penalties -- but the bar is not high right now in the ACC.

NC State has two things it needs to contend for the Atlantic Division in coach Tom O'Brien's fourth season -- one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Russell Wilson and a defense that has shown measurable improvement from last year. Wilson shook off any rust he might have had from missing 250 days to concentrate on baseball, and the defense came up with five sacks, four quarterback hurries and a fourth-and-1 stop early in the fourth quarter. The combination of those two factors has NC State off to its best start since 2002. While the rest of the league is tripping over itself, O'Brien is already halfway to a bowl game. And he just played two games in a span of five days -- something the, ahem, Coastal Division preseason favorites couldn't quite handle.

Now, is NC State the best team in the ACC? It's far too early to tell. But the Wolfpack have proved they're definitely a team to be taken seriously this year. Or at least this week in the ACC.