North Carolina (2-5) at NC State (3-4) Nov. 2, 12:30, ESPN3
Why You Should Give A Hoot: North Carolina and NC State are hooking up for the 103rd time in one of the most storied rivalries in ACC football. The winner in Raleigh gets a jolt of hope for the bowl season, while the loser goes on postseason life support. The Tar Heels snapped a four-game losing streak with their best effort of 2013, suffocating Boston College, 34-10. With the softest part of the schedule ahead, Carolina has an opportunity to rally and finish strong in Larry Fedora's second year. The Wolfpack has dropped three in a row, and is in jeopardy of challenging Virginia as this year's worst team in the league. The program was outclassed by Florida State, 49-17, to start the campaign 0-4 in league play.
Why North Carolina Might Win: The Heels were tight on both sides of the ball last Saturday, limiting big plays and adeptly mixing in starting QB Bryn Renner with change-of-pace Marquise Williams. They're have been no signs of quitting from this program, which had unbeaten Miami on the ropes just a week earlier. Not much has gone right lately for Dave Doeren's kids, who are facing a crisis of confidence and execution as November arrives.
Why NC State Might Win: Despite last week's effort, Carolina can still be a very erratic bunch. The Heels have really struggled at stopping the run, which is what the Pack will attempt to exploit. Lost in the blowout to Florida State was a career day from RB Shadrach Thornton, who rushed 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The NC State offense, in general, ought to be more efficient now that QB Brandon Mitchell has a full game under his belt since returning from an injury.
Who To Watch Out For: Can a weak Pack O-line control the Carolina pass rush? DE Kareem Martin and Bandit Norkeithus Otis have really come on of late, regularly meeting in the opposing backfield.
- State will be looking for a big day from its own pass rushers, namely linemen Art Norman and Thomas Teal. If Renner has time, he'll carve up a very young secondary with darts to TE Eric Ebron and WR Quinshad Davis.
- Fedora is doing a nice job of employing the various skills of both of his quarterbacks. Not only does it keep defenses off balance, but it's going to immensely help Williams when he assumes the full-time role in 2014.
What Will Happen: Carolina looks like a different team these days, generally playing well in October, even when it was coming up short on the scoreboard. NC State, on the other hand, remains a work-in-progress. The Heels will make it two straight to climb closer to .500, as the combination of Renner and Williams outplays a still-rusty Mitchell.
Prediction: North Carolina 30 … NC State 20
Line: North Carolina -3.5 o/u: 57
Must See Rating: (5 All Is Lost – 1 Storage Wars) … 2
CFN's Take: NC State vs. UNC
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