The rivalry is renewed as the Tar Heels meet the Wolfpack at Canter Finley Stadium this weekend for the 97th installment of the series. Both teams, the Tar Heels (3-6, 2-3) and the Pack (4-5, 2-3), are still in the hunt for a post season bowl bid and would like nothing more than to achieve that dream while crushing the hopes of the other.
Carolina comes in off a tight 16-13 win against Maryland last week. While the Heel's offense may have not lit up the scoreboard, a strong defensive showing held the Terps long enough for the win.
State comes in on a two game winning streak and looking hungrier than ever. The Pack has protected the ball the last few weeks, equating in wins for a team who has desperatly underachieved due to injuries this season.
Carolina's run game has slowly evolved over the season and will be a big part of the game this weekend. Last weekend UNC running back Johnny White ran for 92 yards on 18 carries while Anothony Elzy rushed for 37 yards on 8 carries, mostly comming in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heel's rush offense got off to a running start last weekend, but in the second and third quarter found their feet stuck in the mud.
This weekend they must find a more complete run game to compete with the Pack. State's rush defense has been suspect this season, just last weekend giving up 314 yards to Miami in their win. Historically in this series out rushing the opponet is crucial for the victorious team, since 14 out of the last 15 winners has accomplished that feat.
State's quarterback Daniel Evans is finally starting to come into his own these past few games, and now has a total of 10 touchdown and over 1,300 passing yards. The Carolina secondary is young and inexperienced due to energy this season, and the Pack could have a field day with them if they so choose to. Donald Bowens, NC State's top reciever this season, could see plenty of time in the end zone if the Heels do not bring the pressure.
Along with being a big win for post-season desires, the win will be important for in-state recruiting. Both new head coaches will want to show their dominance by winning this rivalry game. While one win does not mean instant recruiting success, having this win under their belt will be an excellent pitch to incoming prospects.
The game will be a tough, hard fought one for either team that comes out the winner. Carolina's seniors are looking for the four year sweep over the Wolfpack, and State would love nothing more than to ruin that run for them. In the end I believe that State's lack of rush defense will cost them, and the UNC secondary will step up and shut down State quarterback Daniel Evans.
Prediction: North Carolina 24, NC State 14