by Jacob Swiger
North Carolina (8-3) at N.C. State(4-7)
[12 p.m., Nov. 28, Carter-Finley Stadium]
Televised by ESPN2
A win by either team Saturday won't have any serious implications on the season as UNC has secured a bowl berth and N.C. State will be sitting at home over the holidays. But a win could go a long way in determining the future for each program.
State faces the uncomfortable offseason questions that come after a disappointing year. After being considered a sleeper in the Atlantic Division with all-ACC caliber quarterback Russell Wilson, the Wolfpack has managed to win exactly one league game with one left to play.
UNC, meanwhile, recovered from losing three straight ACC games with a four-game winning streak, including wins against two ranked teams (Virginia Tech and Miami).
Key stats: 41-10 -- Both fan bases have focused on this score since UNC's collapse last season. N.C. State has the potential to put up a lot of points and UNC"s offense can be a turnover machine ... but this game will be closer than the 2008 contest simply because of the Tar Heels' dominant defense.
Best message board tidbit on the game: Great analysis by a Wolfpack fan on Pack Pride:
If we don't TO the ball like we did last week we have a chance against their D, if we TO it could be a long day.... As much as our D has issues, so does their O, so no advantage either way here.... Special Teams, Can we finally find an acorn withour blind eyes on ST this weekend.... So all said with no TO's this will come down to someone making a play in 4th qtr to win the game.... Flip a coin if we have no TO's....
UNC will win if ... T.J. Yates and Ryan Houston perform like they did against Virginia Tech, Miami and Duke.
The bad offense reappeared after the initial scoring drive against the Eagles in Chestnut Hill and was hidden by another outstanding performance by UNC's secondary.
If the Heels play conservative on offense and force Wilson to beat them through the air, Carolina should win comfortably in the fourth.
N.C. State will win if ... Wilson and Toney Baker hold on to the ball and force Yates and the inexperienced receiving corps to play keep up.
An efficient game by Wilson and solid special teams play should be enough to force Carolina's offense to implode.
What people are saying about the game: Butch Davis on State's defense:
Defensively, they are very similar to the defense that we faced last week against Boston College. It’s a very physical front seven. They’re stingy against the run. They give you an awful lot of bad plays. Willie Young, the defensive end, is one of the better pass rushers that we’ve seen in the last two or three years.
Vegas line (6-5): UNC (-6)
My prediction (8-3): I began this preview with the intention of picking the Wolfpack because I thought UNC's offense wouldn't be able to keep up.
But this is not Tom O'Brien's 2008 team. Russell Wilson has played well on the season but has tossed 11 interceptions -- a striking contrast from last season's debacle in Chapel Hill where he methodically picked apart UNC's secondary without many mistakes.
This is the best defense Wilson will face this season. UNC ranks sixth in the country in forcing interceptions (19 on the season) and has a front seven that will create third-and-long situations, allowing defensive ends Robert Quinn and E.J. Wilson to pressure Wilson on the edges.
UNC's offense will put together a solid performance with only a few "what the heck was he thinking" moments. Offensive coordinator John Shoop has down a wonderful job scripting scoring drives at crucial times during this four-game winning streak.
UNC 27, NCSU 20