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UNC Football vs. Wofford: Three Things to Watch

The Tar Heels host Wofford on Senior Day. Will Carolina dominate enough to see some fresh faces and rest ahead of the NC State season finale?

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Duke Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Senior Day this Saturday at Kenan Stadium! As the Heels look to celebrate those players moving on (or perhaps staying???), there will be plenty of things to monitor on the field. Wofford must be put to the sword as UNC prepares for a season finale against NC State in Raleigh. Here are three things to watch for against the Terriers.

Who’s in at quarterback?

During his Monday press conference, Mack Brown noted that starting quarterback Sam Howell was questionable for Saturday with an upper body injury, later narrowed to his left (non-throwing) arm. Howell is expected to be healthy in time for the NC State game next Friday, so you’d have to imagine that Brown and Phil Longo would prefer for Howell to give his mom a rose and a hug, then put on a headset and chart plays.

So who takes the snaps for Carolina against Wofford? First guess is sophomore Jacolby Criswell. The Arkansas-native has been taking snaps with the two’s this season, and has more meaningful game action than freshman Drake Maye, even if his involvement (and stats) are quite modest. Criswell has appeared in three games this season, but only Georgia State saw him throw the ball. He went 2-2 passing for 54 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown to freshman tight end Bryson Nesbit (most of the work was done by Nesbit, who had a great run after catch for the TD).

Considering how much pre-planned running junior-year Howell has done this season, it makes sense that the more mobile (and dense) Criswell could slide into the existing game plan better than Maye, who projects more as sophomore version of Sam Howell. Even though I expect Criswell to start, I fully suspect we’ll see Maye in as well, up to half of the game, depending on the score. If the defense can pitch a shutout, we could even see each quarterback alternate each offensive series.

Ty Chandler approaches 1,000 yards rushing

Running back Ty Chandler has been a wonderful fill in for the departed Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. So far this season, he has rushed for 926 yards, and accounted for 14 touchdowns. He had rushed for at least one touchdown in five consecutive games before snapping his streak against Pitt. Expect that hiccup to be corrected by the end of the first quarter.

As Chandler marches towards a 1,000-yard rushing season, Phil Longo will surely want to keep his stud stable well rested and ready to ride next weekend against NC State. Provided he’s healthy enough, freshman Caleb Hood stands to gain the most with increased snaps against Wofford. The converted quarterback has only really seen meaningful action in two games (wins against Georgia State and UVA) but looked strong against the Hoos, and brought the rushing attack a different dimension from Chandler, more direct and powerful.

He’ll be eager to stake an early claim for next year’s backfield, as star freshmen George Pettaway arrives in the spring, followed by Omarion Hampton in the summer, and they look like the real deal.

Can the D stand up after a stellar second half in Pittsburgh?

I mentioned earlier how the back-up quarterbacks could benefit from the defense pitching a shutout. The defense could also use the momentum and confidence boost leading up to their rivalry game in Raleigh next week.

Unfortunately for UNC fans, Wake Forest went ahead and ruined the Wolfpack’s dream of winning the ACC Atlantic Division, but that shouldn’t stop the Heels from throwing dirt on NC State’s grave. Devin Leary looks much improved from last season, and until he decided to trade interceptions with Sam Hartman, had a low turnover rate. NC State seemed to trust his arm more than their stout rushing attack, but may have been forced into it due to numerous trips to the sideline and injury tent by sophomore running back Bam Knight.

Leary missed last year’s thrashing in Chapel Hill due to injury, and watched Bailey Hockman and Ben Finley combine for two touchdown passes and three interceptions. He’ll be keen to clean that up, pronto!

If NC State wants to live and die by the pass, Carolina needs to get in the backfield and hit Leary. Last week against Pitt, the Heels got four sacks. They’ll need to at least match that to be successful against NCSU. Getting good reps and some sacks from folks like Des Evans would be a positive indicator that UNC can keep the Wolfpack from scoring enough to keep up with a (hopefully) healthy Sam Howell.