Saturday's game will mark the 104th meeting in the series between the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels. The rivalry, which began in 1894, is the Wolfpack's oldest among ACC teams and the fourth-most played series in the ACC.
When the series began, the two teams actually played twice a year for several years (1894, 1899 and 1901). The series moved to an annual basis for 1919 through 1943 and then after a three-year hiatus, the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels have played every year since 1947 with one exception. In 1952, the game between the two teams was cancelled because of a polio outbreak on UNC's campus.
The Tar Heels hold a 65-32-6 overall mark over the Wolfpack and have won the last two meetings. NC State won the previous five matchups between the two teams.
Pack, Heels Cut it Close
In the past decade, when NC State and UNC have met on the football field the final scores have been fairly close. In fact, the average scoring difference over that time frame is less than 10 points, while five were decided by seven points or less. If you take away a 41-10 Wolfpack victory in Chapel Hill in 2008, the margin is just over seven points.
Here's a look at the final scores each of the past 10 years:
Wolfpack Gains Bowl Eligibility
Heading into the 2014 campaign, one of NC State's team goals was to advance to a bowl game and then win it. The Wolfpack accomplished the first part of that goal last time out against Wake Forest, earning its sixth win of the season.
Dave Doeren has now coached bowl eligible teams 10 of the 13 years he's been a full-time D1 coach.
The Wolfpack enters the final game of the 2014 regular season with a 6-5 record with all five losses coming at the hands of ACC foes. Four of those five are currently ranked in the top 25 of the CFP - Florida State (3) and Georgia Tech (18), Clemson (22) and Louisville (24).
NC State is the only team in the league that has had to face all four ranked ACC teams (Clemson has faced the other three). The Wolfpack and Tigers are also the only teams in the ACC that have had to face the Atlantic and Coastal Division Champions in the ACC this year.
Combined, the teams who have defeated NC State in 2014 post a 42-13 record this season.
It's All About Matt Dayes
Sophomore running back Matt Dayes could be the most versatile offensive player in the ACC. Dayes ranks seventh in the ACC in all-purpose yardage, but among the players ranked in the league's top 10, his yards are the most evenly distributed between rushing, receiving and returns.
Dayes also ranks sixth in the league in TD scoring, with 11 this season. His scoring is also the most evenly distributed among the league's top TD scorers, as six (55%) have come on the ground and five (45%) have come through the air.
Dayes is one of just two players in the country with more than 300 rushing yards (he has 469), receiving yards (303) and return yards (379). He is the only player with 300-plus yards rushing and receiving along with five or more TDs rushing and receiving.
According to ESPN, that dual-threat stat (300/300 and 5/5) is something just 12 other AQ-conference players have done in the past decade. Some of those other players include such notables as: Todd Gurley, De'Anthony Thomas, Giovanni Bernard, Montee Ball, Randall Cobb, DeMarco Murray, Brian Leonard and Percy Harvin.
Here's a look at Dayes' distribution of yardage this season:
Pack Sack Attack
After tallying just 12 sacks in the first seven contests, State has tallied 12 in the last four games - including eight at Syracuse. (The Wolfpack did not tally a sack against Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets had just six pass attempts).
Senior defensive end Art Norman leads the team with 6.5 sacks for the season, with 4.5 of those coming in the last four games.
Senior kicker Niklas Sade became the leading scorer in NC State history in the Wolfpack's win over Wake Forest, surpassing NFF Hall of Famer Ted Brown, who scored 312 points from 1975-78.
Sade has now scored 317 points in his stellar career - a mark which ties for 12th in ACC history. He also has set the school record for field goals (53), extra points (158). That PAT mark is the seventh-highest ever by an ACC player.
A Family Divided
If you ever happen to be watching a UNC basketball, you might see a familiar face sitting in the row behind the bench: Wolfpack redshirt sophomore defensive end Drew Davis. Even when the Tar Heels play in the PNC Arena, Drew can be found on the wrong side of the aisle, although he doesn't do a lot of cheering for the team in blue.
Drew's brother, Luke, is a senior point guard for the Tar Heels who appeared in 20 games last season. Pete and Debbie Davis' oldest son also attended UNC, as did the boys' grandfather.
Drew admits he grew up pulling for the Tar Heels and says that sometimes, attending his brother's games at the Dean Smith Center is "pretty awkward."
Pack Football Is A Rush
One of the brightest spots on this year's team has been the Wolfpack's run game. NC State enters the last game of the regular season averaging 189.5 ground yards per contest. If the squad is able to keep up that mark, it would be the highest rushing average for a Pack squad since the 1994 team rushed for 192.0 yards per game.
The Wolfpack ranks sixth in the ACC in rushing yards, while individually, Shadrach Thornton ranks ninth, even though he has the fewest number of carries (119) among the league's top 10 ground gainers. He shares the rush load with sophomore Matt Dayes, who has carried 86 times and is averaging 42.6 yards per contest and quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has carried 96 times this season.
Even though the Pack's rushing has been among the league's top numbers this season, only one NC State runner has gained over 100 yards in a game, as Thornton rushed for 110 yards against Wake Forest).
First Down Success
For the season, the Wolfpack has averaged 6.8 yards on first down. NC State has rushed the ball 186 times for 1,118 yards on first down (a 6.0 average) and has passed for 1,073 on 135 attempts - a 7.9 yard average.
The Word On Third
NC State continues to rank among the ACC leaders in third down conversions this season - converting on 44.9% of its attempts. The Wolfpack has been particularly effective on third down in the last two contests, converting at a rate of 52% (13-25).
In the first five ACC games of 2014, the team only converted 34.7% on third down (25-72).