TV: JP Sports – Steve Martin (play-by-play), Doc Walker (analyst), Mike Hogewood (sideline)
Site: Kenan Stadium (60,000 grass)
Records: Wake Forest (5-4, 3-3 ACC); UNC (1-8, 0-5 ACC)
Series: UNC leads 65-32-2
Rankings: Neither team is ranked
Coaches: Wake Forest – Jim Grobe, 3rd season 18-15-0, .545; UNC – John Bunting, 3rd season, 12-22-0 .353
Last Meeting: Wake Forest 31, UNC 0 on Oct. 26, 2002, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Line: Wake by 9
Carolina gets the first of just two more chances to snap its school-record home losing streak – now at 10 games – from spanning another season. Following this Saturday's contest and next week's game at Georgia Tech, UNC will wrap up the season at home against Duke.
This week's game will be another challenge for the Tar Heels' rush defense, which ranks last in the ACC, allowing 213.4 yards per game. The Deacons lead the league in rushing at 193.0 yards per game. Last week Wake rushed for 321 yards on 60 carries versus Clemson.
While Darian Durant holds numerous North Carolina passing and total offense records and is destined to own even more before his collegiate career is over, he desperately would like to lead his team to a conference victory this year. If the offensive line can provide adequate protection and the running game can open up the Wake defense, then Carolina could exploit the Deacons through the air. WFU sophomore Cory Randolph is a strong leader whom other players rally around. And while his team will likely run the ball early and often, Randolph does do a nice job of throwing the ball especially when flushed out of the pocket.
Carolina stormed out of the gate last Saturday with its running attack continuing to assert itself – for about one and half quarters. But Maryland's ACC-record 39 points in the second quarter changed the Tar Heels' game plan to one of catch-up. The Deacs will try to force the ball down throat of UNC's defensive front and make the defensive backs provide support. That will open up the passing, if and when the Deacs decide to throw the ball. Tailback Chris Barclay and fullback Nick Burney will get the ball the majority of the time as Wake will attempt to put together long, sustained drives and wear down the Carolina defense.
Advantage: Wake Forest
Both teams possess wide receivers that are having outstanding seasons. As he has done practically all year long, Jawarski Pollock continues to lead the ACC and rank in the Top 20 nationally with 6.56 receptions per game average. The Tar Heels also have a freshman-trio of receivers that have lived up to their lofty expectations. Wake's Jason Anderson has caught four of Wake's five touchdown passes, however he had no receptions last week versus Clemson.
The Tar Heels offensive line has steadily improved over the year as Carolina's rushing attack has shown it can be effective, especially later in the season. But Deacon tackles' Mike Moroz and Tyson Clabo are as good as any tandem in the ACC. The unit deserves a great deal of the credit for the 23rd ranked rushing offense averaging 193.0 yards per game.
Advantage: Wake Forest
Just when it looked like the Carolina run defense was making some strides, the Maryland game signaled a tremendous step back into reality for this bunch. North Carolina's defense is ranked last in just about every league category, but Wake Forest has had problems stopping opponents at times as well, giving up 433.6 yards per offense of total offense, 300 of it passing. The Tar Heels will try to exploit the Deacons' suspect pass defense, while Wake will likely have its way on the ground against a rebuilding UNC front seven.
Advantage: Wake Forest
The Dexter Reid-led secondary, saddled with injury problems and extra responsibility against the run, has struggled to keep opposing receivers from having career games. The Tar Heels have just two interceptions on the year, both by Mahlon Carey at Wisconsin. The Deacon corners will have their hands full as well, provided UNC can open up its passing game by staying in the game early and having success running the ball.
The Tar Heels continue to be consistent in many aspects of their special teams' play, but have been guilty of at least one breakdown per game that has been pivotal in deciding its outcome. Big returns by Arizona State and Clemson, and a miscue on the receiving end against Maryland, has cost Carolina substantially. Punting is much better and showing promise behind the leg of freshman David Wooldridge. The Deacs' have the nation's third-best punter in Ryan Plackemeier. Wake's Willie Idelette is second in the league in punt returning and has a touchdown as well, while Michael Waddell is second in the nation in kick return average.
Prediction: Wake Forest 34, UNC 31