Quarterbacks are defined by performances in their most important games.
"That comes with the job, and quarterbacks have to accept it whether they want to or not," the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers said before winning the last Super Bowl.
North Carolina's Bryn Renner and N.C. State's Mike Glennon won't be playing in a Super Bowl game Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium, but the career paths of the two first-year starters likely will be long influenced by the outcome.
North Carolina has a 6-3 record, but N.C. State (4-4) is in danger of finishing the season with more losses than wins.
For Renner, a sophomore from West Springfield, Va., there's the opportunity to lead the Tar Heels and interim coach Everett Withers to a win that escaped former quarterback T.J. Yates and former coach Butch Davis.
For Glennon, a redshirt junior from Centreville, Va., the game presents a chance to show Wolfpack fans that the departure of Russell Wilson to Wisconsin didn't end a four-game win streak against North Carolina.
The subplot is spiced by the fact that Renner and Glennon enter the game in the wake of opposite showings last week.
In his best game yet, Renner threw three touchdown passes and didn't have an interception in a 49-24 win against Wake Forest.
Glennon was intercepted twice and sacked twice in a staggering 34-0 loss at Florida State. Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien hopes Glennon can deal with the adversity.
"Quarterbacks grow," O'Brien said. "That was the eighth game for him. ... I think he'll learn from it and get better from it."
The biggest key Saturday for Glennon could be a smooth start and some immediate success.
O'Brien said "it would be advisable" for the entire team to have a big first quarter, but fast starts usually hinge on the quarterback's play.
For the season, Renner has nine interceptions. Three of those were Oct. 22 at Clemson in a 59-38 loss that ended with backup Braden Hanson directing the offense.
Renner rebounded with what he rated as his best game yet.
"I think we can get better ... but it's a good starting point," Renner said. "We showed signs of coming together as a team, but we're nowhere near the capabilities of our team. I saw on film where I just need to get the ball out quicker. I took a couple sacks that we can correct."
Saturday will be Renner's fourth road game, after losses at Georgia Tech and Clemson and an easy win at East Carolina.
Glennon has had to deal with more challenges, beginning with a season-ending injury to the team's most talented runner, Mustafa Greene.
And while Renner had three straight home games before the trip to Georgia Tech, Glennon had to play at Wake Forest in his second game and then at Cincinnati (now ranked No. 23) in a Thursday night game.
As a result, Glennon's only win of substance was Oct. 22 at Virginia - a moment of triumph that was quickly erased.
Back at home, the game Saturday will be Glennon's most important yet, and he's probably more in need of the win.
But Renner will be under plenty of pressure, too.
At stake is a fundamental evaluation of locker-room and on-field leadership in both camps.