By James Carr
ATLANTA -- Heading into the Chick fil A Kickoff game between N.C. State and Tennessee, Tom O'Brien called his Wolfpack squad the best he's had since taking the job.
Before the game, this seemed like a reasonable statement. N.C. State has a senior quarterback in Mike Glennon, who seemed poised for a big year, and cornerback David Amerson was touted as a potential top-ten pick in the NFL draft.
All of that was quickly forgotten -- if not mocked -- while the Tennessee Volunteers spanked the Wolfpack 35-21.
Call it another SEC out-of-conference domination or another ACC team laying an egg in the national spotlight. Maybe it was a combination. Either way, the song remains the same for both N.C. State and the ACC: They can't seem to get the job done.
Consider that N.C. State hasn't beaten a BCS foe outside of the ACC or Big East since 2003. In the same time span the ACC has won just one BCS game, Virginia Tech over Cincinnati in 2009.
What makes matters worse is that Tennessee just dismissed it's top wide receiver and questions surrounded coach Derek Dooley's job security this summer. A team under that kind of scrutiny should not be able to pass at will on one of the ACC's "best."
The Volunteers weren't intimidated in the slightest by Amerson and the Wolfpack secondary, going right after Amerson time and time again.
Quarterback Tyler Bray tormented the Wolfpack with 333 yards and two touchdowns.
N.C. State generated little to no pressure on Bray, and when you give Bray an inch he'll throw it a mile. He did so multiple times to new wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson, who displayed incredible size and speed throughout the game.
The Vols held the edge in virtually every statistical category, while playing far from a perfect game.
To his credit, O'Brien handled the loss with class. He noted that this was just one game and thought their turnover problem -- four interceptions -- could be corrected. Tonight, O'Brien said, "We just didn't play good enough."
The rest of the team bought into the message.
"This is not going to break our season," said Quintin Payton. "We'll do back to the drawing board and get it together."
O'Brien added that correcting their mistakes still leaves the door open for N.C. State to win 11 games this season.
As strange as that may sound following such a defeat, he may be right given the state of the ACC.