Where: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC
When: Saturday, November 10th, 12:00 PM
TV: Raycom/LF Regional
Records: UNC 3-6, 2-3 ACC; NCSU 4-5, 2-3 ACC
Since both teams are beginning new eras this is the first in what promises to be a series of great games as these programs will most certainly improve in the coming years. It is also the first time in many season that both teams are still playing for something. UNC and NC State both need this win to move towards bowl eligibility and obviously they still have work to do after this one, the loser of this game is essentially out of the bowl picture though NC State could still win out for six wins despite a potential loss in this game.
The focal point for both of these teams in this game is how well they can play defense. NC State, even when they were losing games in horrid fashion still played excellent defense keeping BC in check as well as a Louisville team capable of putting up points in buckets. The strength of the Wolfpack defense is against the pass which happens to be stronger aspect of the UNC offense. This will make for an interesting pushing match between the forte of each squad. Since NCSU is the 100th ranked rushing defense in the country it would be nice if one of those many running backs UNC has would have a big day. And if I recall correctly I think I said the same thing last week versus Maryland. T.J. Yates has not really had a breakout game since he played so well during UNC's first three. If he can find his groove and get Hakeem Nicks as well as Greg Little, Brooks Foster and Brandon Tate involved, the Heels become much hard to defend with the added dimensions.
When UNC is on defense they will face an offense that rates out at a similar level statistically as the Heels. NC State does not possess powerful running game but can move the ball through the air consistently. Daniel Evans has morphed back into the form everyone say when he took it to FSU and BC last season. For much of the season he struggled until the ECU game when it appears NCSU offensive coordinator Dana Bible figured out an offensive scheme which better suited Evans. The UNC defense has improved steadily and was actually the one bright spot during the post bye week debacle at Wake Forest. This game will be a huge test going against a hot offense who can be pretty effective in picking a defense apart.
The stat everyone ought to pay attention to is that of turnover margin. UNC does not do a great job of taking the ball away and NC State has not been accommodating in giving the football up as of late. On the other hand UNC has shown a penchant for turning the ball over at the most inopportune times which has often had the effect of handing the opposing team prime field position. Special teams has also been a bugaboo for the Heels, especially when it comes to covering punts and kickoffs. Tate has been quiet producing good returns but not one of those back breaking TDs that can shift a game in favor of UNC. Given this could end up being a stingy defensive battle, a big play on special teams could make all the difference.
This is a toss-up, probably as much as there has been one between these two in a long while. On one hand I think the Pack are due one at home versus UNC. However if the game is a tossup I am inclined to follow my hear.
UNC 23 NC State 18