NC State (5-2) at North Carolina (5-3) Oct. 27, 12:30, ACC Network
Here's The Deal: It's been a year of firsts for Carolina head coach Larry Fedora. This weekend, he gets his first crack at snapping his school's five-game losing streak to neighboring rival NC State.
The Tar Heels will need to have a short memory after suffering a crushing loss to another rival, Duke, with 13 seconds left on the clock last week. A pass from Sean Renfree to Jamison Crowder brought Carolina's four-game winning streak to a screeching halt. Finally beating the Pack would provide salve for the wounds, especially since the program is ineligible for the postseason.
For the third consecutive game, Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien suffered through a nail-biter as Maryland's last-second kick for a win was denied by the upright. Having won the last two games by no more than two points, including a cataclysmic upset of Florida State on Oct. 6, State still controls its own destiny in the Atlantic Division.
Why NC State Might Win: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer continues to do a terrific job with a unit that was supposed to struggle this fall.
Save for the Miami game, the Pack has been air-tight on D, allowing no more than 18 points in five of the last six games. It's getting backfield pressure from DT T.Y. McGill and linebackers Rickey Dowdy and Rodman Noel, and will create turnovers with a ball-hawking secondary. In fact, NC State leads the ACC in sacks and tackles for loss, which sets the stage for an intriguing matchup with a Carolina offensive line that has as much talent as anyone in the league.
Why North Carolina Might Win: The Heels have every bit as much defensive talent as the Pack. But they also have more playmakers on offense and a far superior offensive line.
Bryn Renner vs. Mike Glennon promises to be a terrific quarterback battle, one of the best of Week 9, in fact. Renner, though, has a slew of advantages, like a deeper corps of receivers, a pocket that rarely collapses … and one of the country's premier backs, Giovani Bernard. Bernard is averaging almost nine yards a carry over the last four games, giving Carolina a degree of offensive balance that State has not enjoyed. The Heels can stop one player to bring the Pack to a halt. Such is not the case on the other side of the field.
What To Watch Out For: The game-within-the-game will clearly occur when Carolina has the ball, and State is attacking the line of scrimmage. The Pack is fast and frenetic, looking to bring the heat whenever and from wherever possible. If it wants to get to Renner, though, it better ignore the left side of the line, where T James Hurst and G Jonathan Cooper are tough to penetrate. Actually, the right side of T Brennan Williams and G Travis Bond isn't much more accommodating, setting the stage for a tremendous head-to-head matchup in the trenches.
What Will Happen: New coach. New mindset.
Fedora is still relatively new, which means he hasn't been tainted by Carolina's recent skid versus NC State. He also has the more talented overall team and the backing of the Kenan Stadium crowd, which has yet to witness a home loss this season. The Wolfpack defense has become stingy of late, yet the Tar Heels will find a way to navigate it. The passing of Renner combined with the running of Bernard will provide the difference in a competitive game that has all of the energy and passion of a century-old rivalry.
CFN Prediction: North Carolina 26 … NC State 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) North Carolina -7 O/U: 56.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 2.5
Saturday's game will mark the 102nd meeting in the series between the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels…