Clemson, Louisville, Boston College.
One of these things is not like the other. At least to media and fans they aren’t.
N.C. State (4-3) gets Boston College (3-4) at home on Saturday after stepping up in weight class with Clemson and Louisville the previous two weeks.
But that’s not how the Wolfpack sees the Eagles, who have won 7 of the 11 ACC games between the two schools.
“I know you guys look at it differently,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
Yep. Clemson is 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country and the Cardinals are 6-1, with only a six-point road loss to Clemson, and ranked No. 5.
Then there’s Boston College. The Eagles’ wins this season are over UMass, Wagner and Buffalo. They have lost 12 straight ACC games. They got blown out at home by Clemson (56-10) and lost a must-win home game with fellow “Atlantic Division Participant” Syracuse a week ago. They’ve also lost to both Techs to take an 0-4 ACC record into this game.
But that’s what we, with an untrained eye, see. Doeren sees a tough defense, in Clemson and Louisville’s class, and a disciplined team.
“I look at the film and see BC as a very physical, formidable opponent,” Doeren said. “You have to do things right to beat them.”
Doeren is right. With his team coming off of an embarrassing performance at Louisville, a 54-13 loss, it can’t afford to look down on any opponent.
“Our guys won’t take them lightly,” Doeren said.
This is another one of those “you can’t get there from here without this win” kind of games for Doeren and the Wolfpack. Seeing as how they already dropped one of those, at East Carolina on Sept. 10, this season, it wouldn’t be prudent to overlook the Eagles for next week’s juicier home matchup with Florida State.
With four wins, N.C. State needs two more in its final five games to go back to a bowl game for the third time in Doeren’s four seasons.
N.C. State will likely be an underdog in three of those games (FSU, Miami and at North Carolina). This game and the Nov. 12 trip to Syracuse stack up as the most logical wins.
That’s not the conversation Doeren is having with his players.
“The way we’re talking with our guys is just get back to work,” Doeren said. “We have a five-game season left and we have to take them one at a time.”
Yes, desperate times after terrible losses call for desperate coaching cliches. The difference in N.C. State’s performance at Clemson and at Louisville suggests Doeren is right to hit the reset button and get back to basics.
All losses might count the same but they aren’t created equal. N.C. State was emotionally spent after losing in overtime at Clemson at Oct. 15. It was clear they never recovered before kickoff at Louisville last week.
“One week you’re heartbroken and kind of in shock,” Doeren said of the Clemson loss.
And the next? You have no other choice but to look in the mirror and make a choice.
“We all have to do a better job of owning up to our mistakes and move on,” N.C. State center Joe Scelfo said. “We all need to move on together.”
Moving on with a win over Boston College feels like the best possible option. The Wolfpack is in no position to see if it can survive the alternative.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Boston College at N.C. State
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
TV: ACC Network