If N.C. State still harbors hopes to one day win a national championship – and believe me, it does – the best course of action is for the Wolfpack to lose to No. 3 Clemson on Thursday.
And not just lose. Get blown out. Give up 50 points. Bore the daylights out of ESPN’s announcing team. Make all of us change the channel. Make Tajh Boyd look like Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl.
This time, it’s for the conference's benefit.
N.C. State’s hopes to one day win a national championship aren’t unrealistic. The Wolfpack has the fanbase, the facilities and the athletics director to become a football power. N.C. State plays in a big enough state to build with top-tier talent close to home, and it has the ever-important golden ticket to a title game with its membership in a major conference.
It’s wildly optimistic to be sure, but it is possible that one day it could happen. But that one day certainly isn’t coming at the end of this season. An agonizingly-close home victory against Richmond – which had Wolfpack fans dreading work and school the following Monday before N.C. State rescued a win on its final drive – illustrated that this most definitely is not the year.
For Clemson, though, it is.
What is best for the Tigers is best for the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. The Tigers are ranked higher than they’ve been since 1988, and nobody in Clemson has any interest in the Orange Bowl.
The rest of the ACC should be rooting with them. They’re carrying dreams the whole conference shares. Not only has an ACC team not won a national championship game in more than a decade – it hasn’t even played in one. Florida State during the 2000 season was the last conference member to play in the final game, and the conference desperately needs a member to elevate its profile.
It’s no secret that the Southeastern Conference has its pick of the crop in the South. In 2011, two top 10 running backs, Todd Gurley of Tarboro and Keith Marshall of Raleigh Millbrook, both lived in the backyard of four different ACC schools, yet both ended up in the same SEC backfield.
That’s not a unique occurance, either. Swinging the balance of power means winning on a national stage, and this year, Clemson is the only ACC team with a remote hope of doing so.
The ACC has hampered teams in the past – the Tigers were an 8-0 power conference team in 2011 and couldn’t even crack the top 5 – but Clemson already has solved that problem with a victory against Georgia, another national title hopeful.
To make it all the way to the final game, it probably will take an undefeated regular season.
National title hopes have died on Carter-Finley’s field in the past two years – Clemson in 2011 and Florida State in 2012 – but now is not the time, Wolfpack.
Nobody likes to lose, but for N.C. State, this season has to be about the big picture.
If you’re a Wolfpack fan and you feel like you were hit by a big, orange ice cream truck on Thursday night, don’t hang your head.
It will have been for your own good.