CHARLOTTE — Basketball took center stage Wednesday, with all 15 league coaches and 29 of their players in attendance at the ACC’s Operation Basketball media event.
But while most of the conversation during a long day of interviews centered around prospects for the upcoming season on the hardwood, football was on the mind of at least one coach. And of course, it was the one representing the school with the most storied gridiron tradition.
The Irish’s basketball coach said he was looking forward to Saturday’s game against NC State, but is afraid others around South Bend might not be taking the Wolfpack as seriously as they should in the aftermath of last week’s emotional 49-14 rout of rival Southern California.
“The energy is so great on our campus,” Brey said. “We’re playing so well and last Saturday night was awesome. But I tell you what … I’m trying to tell our fans that NC State is better than USC, because they are.”
Coach Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack comes into the game riding high, ranked 14th in the nation on the strength of a six-game winning streak. It has already beaten ranked opponents Florida State and Louisville, and has had a week off to prepare for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame is also 6-1 and ranked ninth in the nation and ranks sixth nationally in rushing offense.
The Irish have designs on earning a spot in this year’s College Football Playoff if it can win out. But Brey said that his school’s team has yet to see a defense as good as the Wolfpack’s — a unit that features an elite pass rusher in Bradley Chubb and ranks sixth nationally against the run, but might be overlooked because of its conference affiliation.
“Our fans are still trying to grasp ACC football,” Brey said. “I was at dinner the other night, and I said (to someone at the restaurant), just understand, I’m telling you NC State is better. We’ve got our hands full Saturday.”
Notre Dame is a 7 1/2-point favorite, but has lost both previous meetings with the Wolfpack. In fact, the Irish have yet to score a touchdown against the Wolfpack, which won 28-6 in the 2003 Gator Bowl behind quarterback Philip Rivers and 10-3 last season in a monsoon caused by Hurricane Matthew.