North Carolina (2-5) at NC State (3-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 2, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carter Finley Stadium (60,000) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: UNC 2-2, NC State 3-2. Away Record: UNC 0-3, NC State 0-2. Neutral Record: UNC 0-0, NC State 0-0. Conference Record: UNC 1-2, NC State 0-4. Series Record: UNC leads, 64-32-6.
GAME NOTES: In a battle of instate rivals, the North Carolina State Wolfpack will square off with the North Carolina Tar Heels in Atlantic Coast Conference action at Carter Finley Stadium.
The Tar Heels finally put a stop to a four-game losing streak last weekend with a 34-10 triumph over Boston College. The win keeps the Tar Heels' hopes of making the postseason alive, though they are hanging by a thread at this point. North Carolina is just 2-5, while the win over BC was the first in three tries for the Tar Heels against an ACC opponent.
While UNC is looking to build a winning streak the Wolfpack have their sights set on halting a losing streak. A 49-17 trampling from Florida State this past weekend was the third straight loss and fourth in the last five games for NC State, which has a better overall record than the Tar Heels (3-4) but is winless in four chances versus fellow ACC squads. Clearly league play has not been kind to the Wolfpack, who have scored fewer than 20 points in each conference matchup.
Giovani Bernard ran back a punt 74 yards for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds to play to lift North Carolina to a 43-35 win over NC State last season. The win ended a five-game win streak for NC State in the historic rivalry that dates back to 1894. The win also allowed the Tar Heels to reassert their dominant role in that series, which they lead 64-32-6.
In its win over Boston College, North Carolina did not overwhelm on the offensive side, with 392 total yards. However, the Tar Heels were more efficient than usual. They did not have a single turnover for the first time this season and also converted on 8-of-16 third down chances.
Bryn Renner's play under center was a major reason for the ease with which the Tar Heels posted the victory. Renner threw for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns, completing 18-of-21 pass attempts. Marquise Williams, who is a nice change of pace at quarterback with his ability as a dual-threat, also got some time as he threw for 55 yards and a score and added 55 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Renner (137-of-209, 1,641 yards, 10 TDs, four INTs) is the unquestioned starter though.
Renner has not been particularly generous with his passes this season with tight end Eric Ebron (35 receptions, 599 yards, three TDs) and wideout Quinshad Davis (30 receptions, 415 yards, five TDs) taking in the bulk of the throws. Ebron was the leading receiver against BC, with four catches for 67 yards.
The downfall for North Carolina has been its defense. The Tar Heels are dead last in the ACC in total defense (428 ypg) and third worst in points allowed (27.7 ppg). They also have only 13 sacks and 11 forced turnovers on the season. Kareem Martin (47 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) has done everything he can to improve the effort as the team-leader in tackles for loss and sacks.
NC State has been the definition of average when it comes to offense in the ACC. The Wolfpack are seventh in the league in total yards (412.9 ypg) and eighth in scoring (23.6 ppg). A weakness has been in the red zone, as NC State has just nine touchdowns in 22 trips.
A shoulder injury kept Pete Thomas from starting under center against Florida State and has him listed as questionable for Saturday's duel with the Tar Heels. Losing Thomas, who has eight interceptions to three touchdowns, isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, Brandon Mitchell didn't impress in the start against the Seminoles as he was picked off twice, while throwing for just 128 yards on 17-of-33 passing.
Assuming Mitchell is again under center, he will likely be looking for Bryan Underwood (32 receptions, 382 yards, TD), who leads the team in receptions and yards and is tied for the team-lead in receiving touchdowns (4). Rashard Smith (23 receptions, 261 yards) is the only other player with more than 20 catches.
A bright spot in the loss to Florida State was the play of Shadrach Thornton, who tallied 173 yards and two scores on 23 carries. Efforts like that have not been common for Thornton, who has rushed for just 357 total yards and four touchdowns overall.
On defense NC State hasn't been overwhelmingly successful, but it has been better than the Tar Heels. The Wolfpack are 10th in the ACC in yards give up (385 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (25.1 ppg). A big weak spot has been the Wolfpack's play in the red zone. NC State has let up 18 touchdowns on 21 red zone trips. Dontae Johnson (47 tackles, three INTs) and Robert Caldwell (54 tackles, 8.5 TFL) are the top contributors.
If records were all that mattered than NC State would have the edge in this contest. However, the Wolfpack has been outclassed by each ACC opponent they have faced. The Tar Heels may not be one of the premier programs in the league this season, but with Renner, they have enough offensive punch to get the job done here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 31, NC State 23
10/30 10:37:26 ET