In Carolina's final game of the season the Heels can clinch 2nd place in the ACC Coastal and a better record than NC State with a simple home win over the Wolfpack. Neither team has fulfilled their relatively lofty pre-season expectations but each has managed bowl eligibility and the winner of this game will even be 7-5. NC State will come to Chapel Hill on a definite down-swing, if not for the bounty that the expanded ACC brings in Syracuse and a putrid Wake Forest team, State would not have won since September. As it stands, State has lost five of their past seven games and has not beaten a power conference team with a winning record (Wake Forest and Syracuse are a combined 6-16 this year). Carolina will be the favorites in this game but as every Carolina fan knows, that means very little when State comes to town.
NC State will need quarterback Jacoby Brissett to come up big if they are to beat the Heels. Brissett has been inconsistent in his first season as a starter for the Wolfpack, posting a pedestrian line on the season of 59.2% completion percentage for 2278 yards and 19 touchdowns against only five interceptions. Brissett should be respected on the ground as a runner. He runs at least five times in every game and typically gets a couple dozen yards on the ground. The Heels will need to limit Brissett if they want this game to be as comfortable as the Duke game. Brissett might help them with that, in his past five games Brissett has completed fewer than 53% of his passes for only six touchdowns as opposed to four interceptions. If the Heels can coax a similar day out of Brissett then this game should be an easy one for the Heels.
Due to Brissett's floundering the main focus of State's offense has been on their rushing attack. State has the 28th best rushing attack in the country in terms of yards per carry with 5.2. State does this through two separate dynamic backs averaging 5.5 yards per carry in Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes. Thornton is a larger back, and will receive the bulk of the carries agianst the Heels. However, Carolina fans should watch out for Dayes, who operates as more of a change of pace back. Dayes is particularly effective as a receiver, averaging 9.8 yards per catch with five touchdown grabs on the season.
State's strength on defense is their work against the pass, State holds its opponents to under 200 yards per game passing, the 29th best mark in the country. Coincidentally the 30th team in the country by this metric is Duke, who Carolina had no problems in lighting up last week. State does allow 188.8 yards per game on the ground and Carolina should look to exploit this by using Marquise Williams in read option plays to confuse and break down the Wolfpack defense.
Let's go do that again:
Carolina submitted its best game of the year in a pasting of Duke. For the second consecutive week a Triangle opponent is all that stands between the Heels and bragging rights. If the Heels do everything they did last week; diversify the receiving targets, commit to a run game, and get the defense off the field then State will be win number 7 for the Heels.
Keep Marquise clean:
The Heel's plans on offense fall apart if Marquise Williams lacks time to throw and make reads. State is not a particularlygood pass rushing team, tied for 54th in the country in sacks. But a surefire way to make this game closer than it ought to be is to let Williams get pressured and sacked a ton.
Just beat State:
Another pass/fail assignment similar to the Pitt game. Instead of needing to beat State to get bowl eligibility this is a game for pride. A win puts the Heels at second in the ACC coastal, clinches a better record than State and would keep Larry Fedora perfect against the Wolfpack. Whereas a loss in this game would clinch the second worst record in the State for the Heels above only Wake Forest. It would also take Carolina a step sideways rather than forwards, giving Larry Fedora back to back 6-6 regular seasons in Chapel Hill. Beating State would do a lot for Carolina fans emotionally and show promise for the team going into the postseason and next year.