During a Monday visit to East Garner Middle School, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and kicker Graham Gano, who both played at ACC schools, gave differing opinions on who they thought would win the ACC championship.
North Carolina (11-1, 8-0 ACC) will to face No. 1 ranked Clemson (12-0, 8-0) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Charlotte.
Cotchery, who played at N.C. State from 2000 to 2003, a rival of UNC, is leaning towards Tar Heels, but Gano, who played at Florida State from 2005 to 2008, is picking the Tigers to win it all.
Cotchery broke school records for receptions and games with more than 100 receiving yards while playing at N.C. State. When asked to be unbiased, Cotchery laughed.
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“You know what, I have to admit, Chapel Hill is legit this year,” he said. “I think they have a really good shot at beating Clemson. I think if there is any team in the ACC that can beat them, it is definitely Carolina.”
Said Gano: “That’s going to be a big one. Clemson and North Carolina. I’ve got a lot of Clemson fans down where I live, and I know this is N.C. State territory, so I better say Clemson.”
The matchup between the teams has College Football Playoff implications. Clemson currently has a spot in the four-team playoff, but UNC is desperately trying to get in. While it would be a longshot for UNC, only a win against Clemson could give the Tar Heels that possibility. If Clemson loses, the Tigers could be out of contention.
The two Panthers players visited the middle school as part of the NFL’s Fuel to Play 60 initiative to encourage kids to get out and play.
The Panthers are the only undefeated team in the NFL. Cotchery led the Panthers with 73 yards receiving Nov. 26 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Gano made four of five field-goal attempts in the game.
UNC or Clemson?
“I guess frankly who do I think will win, or who do I want to win? I think Clemson is going to win because they have been strong all season and are strong in all aspects of the game. Offensively defensively and special teams.”
Rodney Dickerson, Garner assistant town manager and who played football for Duke from 1985 to 1989