Gameday: UNC vs. WF

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina (1-6, 0-4 ACC) will try to avoid its first five-game losing streak in three years with an injury-depleted defense, a stagnant offense and a lame duck head coach, when No. 24 Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1) visits Kenan Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

With everything seemingly working against the Tar Heels this week, there is the unknown of emotion stemming from the perceived advantage of nothing to lose, following Sunday's announcement that John Bunting would not return after this season.

WFU coach Jim Grobe said, "With John being fired, certainly their players were already going to come out with emotion and energy, but I think it's going to be ratcheted up a notch. They're going to be ready to come out and play for John."

However, it's been the Deacons' preparedness and mistake-free football that has them off to their best start since 1979. They are decided favorites to win their fourth road game in a row for the first time since 1992.

"They've done some great things this year," Bunting said. "They're team is on a roll and has got great momentum. They've got some great players. Coach Grobe is doing a terrific job. The players are playing tremendously well together offensively and defensively.

"Coaching consistency and great recruiting have turned that program around."

UNC leads the all-time series in the ACC's second-most played rivalry, 67-32-2.

"It's a great rivalry that exists in all sports," Bunting said.

Wake had this week off following an exciting 25-23 win at N.C. State on Oct. 14. In its only contest with a ranked opponent, the Deacs' blew an opportunity to upset then 19th ranked Clemson before falling, 27-17.

After the coming game in Chapel Hill, the road to an ACC Atlantic Division title gets tougher for Wake, as it closes out the season with games against Boston College, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Maryland.

"We know we've got our work cut out for us," Grobe said. "We've had a week off, and we're a little bit healthier. We're playing pretty well, but you never know how the off week is going to affect you.

Grobe has noted the UNC coaching situation to his team in practice by emphasizing that the match-up with an in-state rival was going to be extremely emotional anyway. Though he admits he'd prefer not to face the Tar Heels this week in light of the circumstances.

"We've got a lot of players that have either played with or against a lot of the kids on Carolina's team," Grobe said. "It's very similar to when we play Duke or State on the road, but our job got tougher."

If this week of practice was any indication, the Tar Heels will provide a spirited effort on Saturday.

"I think the players are handling it very well," Bunting said. "The teams we've coached around here the last three years have been resilient. In '04 and '05, we were very tough-minded. That's what I would like for these guys experience is a tough football game and come out on top. Get the game into the fourth quarter and come out with a win."

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