The answer won't come for another two months, but a question lingers from N.C. State's 34-27 loss Saturday to Wake Forest: Is N.C. State in for a long season, after losing to what was a bad team in 2010, or is Wake Forest better?
Mark the vote for the coaches on both sides in the latter column.
Before his program's fifth straight loss in Winston-Salem, N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien described the Deacons, 38-3 losers in Raleigh en route to a 3-9 season a year ago, as "dangerous."
Two days after his team's loss, O'Brien said: "Wake was a better football team than they were a year ago."
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, after two games, likes the cut of his 11th team's jib. He did before the Deacons lost in overtime to Syracuse in the opener, after squandering a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, and again after Saturday's win against the Wolfpack.
"Our kids really like each other, so it's a good feeling, but you've got to win. And after what happened to us at Syracuse, it was huge," Grobe said this week.
He has a veteran offensive line with four senior starters, and an up-and-coming quarterback in sophomore Tanner Price, who has thrown for 586 yards and four touchdowns in two games. That's as good a combination as you can get in any level of football.
The defense, which is less experienced than the offense, is still a work in progress and likely will have more long afternoons, as it did a year ago with the 90th-ranked scoring unit in the country. But there's hope that Wake Forest can turn a corner.
Since a 2-0 ACC start in 2008, the Deacons are just 7-16 in conference play and basically miserable outside the state: the total includes three wins against Duke and two against the Wolfpack.
With a likely win Saturday against Gardner-Webb, a former Division I-AA team, the Deacons still need to find four more wins to qualify for a bowl for the first time in three years.
Whether they can find enough wins, the important subtext to Grobe's comments - the "kids really like each other" - gives you a clue about how members of the previous 5-7 and 3-9 teams felt about each other.
Even if Wake Forest is better, though, Saturday's loss still stings the Wolfpack. If there's an Atlantic Division team N.C. State is supposed to beat, it's Wake Forest. N.C. State's 62 wins against Wake Forest are 29 more than it has against any other ACC team.
Wake Forest (62-36-6) and Virginia (33-21-1) are the only two ACC teams against whom N.C. State has a winning record.
To build on the success of last year's 9-4 record and No. 25 ranking, at minimum N.C. State needs to get back to a bowl. Of N.C. State's 25 bowl seasons, 22 included wins against Wake Forest.
There is a recent precedent, though. Chuck Amato's Wolfpack teams in 2003 and '05 lost to Grobe and Wake Forest but still made it to the postseason for trips to the Tangerine Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Luck of the Tigers: Most coaches would rather be lucky than good. Auburn coach Gene Chizik has been both during the 17-game win streak the SEC's Tigers will take into Clemson's Death Valley on Saturday.
Chizik, who was just 5-19 at Iowa State before taking the Auburn job in 2009, has won 10 games during the streak by one score or less, seven by four points or less.
Auburn's win against Mississippi State last week came after a goal-line stand from inside its own 1. In the opener, Auburn executed a perfect onside kick to avoid an upset by Utah State.
Last season, Auburn's BCS championship season was nearly derailed by Clemson, which led Chizik's team 17-0 before losing 27-24 in overtime.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney stopped short of calling Auburn lucky, and instead paid respect to its resourcefulness.
"They always find ways to win," Swinney said. "When you win games like that, you develop a swagger, a confidence that you're going to make a play. You expect to win, and that's a tough nut to crack."
Add this to reason No. 718 with the ACC's problems in football. Unlike basketball, where Duke and North Carolina believe they can win every game, there are no football counterparts who have this kind of ingrained confidence.
Air Jackets: It's only two games, but the top-rated passer in the ACC - by almost 146 points! - is Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington.
Washington has completed 13 of 21 passes for 473 yards, with five touchdowns, for a passer efficiency of 329.7. Granted, it's a convoluted formula which is skewed by the limited number of his attempts and his yards-per-attempt (22.5), but the next closest passer is North Carolina's Bryn Renner with an efficiency rating of 183.9.
This is the same Georgia Tech offense that ranked 119th in passing last year (83.9 yards per game). Washington has thrown for more yards in two games - again granted, it was against Western Carolina and Middle Tennessee - than he did all of last year.
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