CFN's Take: NC State vs. North Carolina

College Football News takes a look at Saturday's contest against North Carolina. NC State (4-6) will be looking to upset the Tar Heels (7-3).

NC State (4-6) at North Carolina (7-3), 12:00 EST, ESPN GamePlan

Why to watch: North Carolina State is back at it again. For the second straight year, the Wolfpack is gaining a head of steam in the second half and playing the spoiler role in the conference. State has beaten in-state rivals Duke and Wake Forest in back-to-back weeks, and hasn’t played a truly bad game since getting dumped by South Florida on Sept. 27. If the Pack can stay hot for two more weeks, it might be rewarded with an unexpected bowl berth. North Carolina will be looking to rebound from Saturday’s damaging two-point loss at Maryland. The Heels appeared headed for first place in the Coastal Division, but couldn’t hang on and now need help to win the ACC. Butch Davis has not named a starting quarterback for the game, indicating that Cam Sexton and T.J. Yates, the starter before injuring his ankle in September, will compete for the job during practice.

Why NC State might win: Whoever gets the nod from Davis will face a Wolfpack defense playing its best ball of the year. While the season statistics aren’t great, State has been stout against the run in consecutive weeks and had four sacks in Saturday’s upset of Wake Forest. It’s no coincidence that LB Nate Irving is back from injury and playing as well as he did in September. Redshirt freshman QB Russell Wilson isn’t getting nearly enough attention for his role in the program’s recent success. While no flamethrower, he’s thrown two touchdowns in each of the last four games and won’t make the kind of mistakes that the Carolina D has lived off this fall.

Why North Carolina might win: The Tar Heels are glad to be back in Chapel Hill, where they’re 5-1 with the only loss coming against Virginia Tech. The defense continues to be the catalyst for the program, creating turnovers and winning the battles at the point of attack. While NC State is certainly playing better, its offensive line will have problems controlling a solid front seven that can freely substitute fresh bodies at linebacker and defensive tackle. It was just three games ago that the Pack was getting gutted on the ground by Maryland, so RB Shaun Draughn should get back on track and help control the tempo of the game.

Who to watch: Although he doesn’t have prototypical size at 6-1 and 225 pounds, Irving is a special player, a difference-maker from the defensive side of the ball. In just two games back from injury, he’s already racked up 22 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. If Carolina is going to emerge from its offensive funk, someone better consistently get a hat on No. 56.

What will happen: North Carolina and Miami are going to find out in the next two weeks that NC State is for real. The Pack is a genuine nuisance that’s playing much better on defense and getting crisp play from Wilson. The Tar Heels will tighten the screws late on defense to survive a scare, but it is not going to be easy.

CFN Prediction: North Carolina 24 … NC State 15... Line: North Carolina -11 

Must See Rating: (5 Valkyrie – 1 Paris Hilton’s My New BFF) … 2.5

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