FACTS & STATS: Site: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000) -- Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: NC State 3-0, UNC 4-0. Away Record: NC State 2-1, UNC 0-3. Neutral Record: NC State 0-1, UNC 0-0. Conference Record: NC State 2-1, UNC 2-2. Series Record: UNC leads 63-32-6.
GAME NOTES: For the second straight week the North Carolina Tar Heels will take on an instate rival when the NC State Wolfpack pay a visit to Kenan Memorial Stadium for an Atlantic Coast Conference bout.
It wasn't the prettiest win of the season for NC State last weekend but thanks to a 43-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining by Niklas Sade, the Wolfpack escaped from College Park with a 20-18 win over Maryland. The win was the second straight for the Wolfpack. The other win in that streak also came in thrilling fashion as the Wolfpack overcame a 16-0 halftime deficit to lay a 17-16 defeat on the then No. 3 Florida State Seminoles.
A trip down Tobacco Road ended in disappointment for North Carolina last weekend as the Tar Heels dropped a 33-30 decision to the rival Duke Blue Devils. It was the first loss on the road to Duke by the Tar Heels since 1988 and the first time UNC has ever allowed Duke to score more than 30 points. The loss put an end to a four-game winning streak and put the Tar Heels at an even 2-2 in conference play this season.
This long-time rivalry has been dominated by North Carolina, with the Tar Heels having almost twice as many wins in the series as NC State (63-32-6). However in recent years the Wolfpack has been the dominant side with wins in five straight, all coming under the five-year tenure of head coach Tom O'Brien. The streak includes a 13-0 shutout win for NC State in Raleigh last season. It was the first shutout by the Wolfpack since a 14-0 win over South Florida in the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
NC State's offense has been solid this season ranking near the middle in the ACC in both total yards (414.3 ypg, seventh) and scoring (26.9 ppg, seventh). The Wolfpack are efficient in the red zone, scoring on 21-of-24 attempts for the fourth best conversion rate (87.5 percent) in the ACC.
The success in the red zone has come despite a less than stellar rushing attack. The team has only amassed 912 yards on the ground to 1,988 through the air. Leading the aerial assault is Mike Glennon who has thrown for all 1,988 yards, while completing 58.3 percent of his pass attempts. He also has twice as many touchdowns (14) as interceptions (seven). Glennon is coming off a 307- yard effort against Maryland, which raised his ACC-leading yards per game average to 284.
At the end of many of Glennon's passes is Quintin Payton, who has team-highs in both receptions (29) and yards (551) for an impressive 19.0 yards per catch average. However Payton has only caught one touchdown pass. It is Bryan Underwood who has been the most dangerous in scoring situations, bringing in eight touchdowns this season. That is the second most in the conference behind Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins.
In terms of running the ball the Wolfpack are led by a tandem of backs in Tony Creecy (337 yards, 81 carries, 3 TDs) and Shadrach Thornton (284 yards, 55 carries, 2 TDs). Although Creecy is more of a workhorse, Thornton has been more explosive averaging team highs in yards per carry (5.1) and per game (70.5).
NC State does not allow teams to score at a high rate when it is on defense. The Wolfpack are the third best scoring defense in the ACC this season (20.3 ppg), while ranking sixth in total defense (394.1 ypg). The Wolfpack have also gotten to the quarterback well with an ACC-leading 22 sacks.
Earl Wolff (57 tackles) and Brandan Bishop (54) have each eclipsed the 50- tackle plateau for the Wolfpack, while Rickey Dowdy has been a force up front with a team-high nine tackles for loss. All-American David Amerson has recovered from a slow start with 12 tackles in each of the last two games along with four interceptions this season.
There are a number of weapons on offense for North Carolina especially in the backfield. Giovani Bernard has been stellar this season racking up 795 yards and eight touchdowns on 103 carries. He is averaging 132.5 yards per game and 7.7 per carry which are both team highs and conference highs among players with at least 40 rushes this season. Bernard has also contributed in the pass game with the third-most receptions (24) while tied for the second most touchdown receptions (three) on the team. Bernard isn't the only back that has been tough to stop, with A.J. Blue (339 yards, 6 TDs) and Romar Morris (321 yards) each averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
The Tar Heels can also pile up yards through the air, led by Bryn Renner. Renner has thrown for 2,028 yards and 17 touchdowns, completing 62.3 percent of his pass attempts this season. His passing touchdown total is the highest in the ACC.
Renner is spreading the ball around effectively. Erik Highsmith (39 rec., 395 yards) has been a solid possession receiver while Sean Tapley has been an explosive deep threat with a team-high four touchdowns passes and 18.6 yards per reception average. Four different receiver have collected at least 23 receptions for the Tar Heels this season.
The Tar Heels have been an even better defensive team than the Wolfpack. UNC ranks third in the conference in total yards (349.9 ypg) and second in scoring (19.3 ppg). In fact along with Florida State, the Tar Heels are the only team in the conference to allow fewer than 20 points per game. North Carolina does a great job in forcing negative plays, with an ACC-leading 60 tackles for loss.
Kareem Martin (10.5 tackles for loss), Kevin Reddick (9.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) and Sylvester Williams (8.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks) have been the anchors of a powerful front seven for the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, Tim Scott (31 tackles, 3 INTs) and Tre Boston (52 tackles, 3 INTs) have played well in the secondary.
This matchup is exactly what anyone could want out of a rivalry game. What this game will come down to is which offense can be more explosive and with Bernard leading the charge, the Tar Heels have the edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 28, NC State 21Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 3:30 p.m. (et)