N.C. State (6-5, 2-5 ACC) at North Carolina (6-5, 4-3)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Kenan Stadium
TV: WRAL (Raleigh), WMYT (Charlotte)
PPG: UNC 36.7; N.C. State 29.4
Allowed: UNC 39.3; N.C. State 28.8
When UNC has the ball
Quarterback Marquise Williams has emerged as a dark-horse candidate for ACC Player of the Year honors. You can make an argument that no player has meant more to his team’s success on offense than Williams has. He has carried the Tar Heels most of the season.
Williams has run for 220 yards and five touchdowns in UNC’s past two games – victories against Pittsburgh and Duke – and he passed for 276 yards in each of those games. The good news for UNC, too, is that Williams is starting to get some help.
Sophomore running back T.J. Logan has run for 208 of his 460 yards in UNC’s past two games. The offensive line, which was a mess earlier with injuries, is healthier and better than it has been all season.
N.C. State’s defense is coming off one of its better performances, albeit against Wake Forest’s anemic offense. The Wolfpack is allowing 388.2 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the ACC.
When N.C. State has the ball
After running for 362 yards against Wake Forest two weeks ago, N.C. State ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing offense (189.5 yards per game). The Tar Heels often have struggled against the run – but where haven’t they had issues on defense?
In quarterback Jacoby Brissett, running backs Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes and receiver Bo Hines, N.C. State has enough talent and playmakers to exploit a UNC defense that has allowed no shortage of big plays.
UNC has given up 19 plays of at least 40 yards, which ranks 115th nationally. N.C. State hasn’t always had the most success generating those kinds of plays, but there should be opportunities Saturday.
Edge: N.C. State
N.C. State kicker Niklas Sade has made 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts, including 5-for-5 between 40 and 49 yards. That gives the Wolfpack a significant advantage in a close game, given that UNC hasn’t made a field goal this season of longer than 30 yards.
Both teams rank among the top 25 nationally in kickoff coverage, and N.C. State punter Wil Baumann is averaging 45.8 yards per punt. That ranks fifth nationally.
The Tar Heels’ Ryan Switzer is still among the most dangerous punt returners in the country, despite his struggles. Switzer has yet to return a punt for a touchdown, but he did that five times last season.
Edge: N.C. State
Both teams are playing for their seventh win and for all the pride and off-the-field benefits – particularly in recruiting – that come with a victory in this rivalry.
UNC coach Larry Fedora has yet to lose against N.C. State; Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, in his second season, is seeking his first victory in the series. Before Fedora arrived in 2012, N.C. State had beaten UNC five consecutive times.
There are no divisional implications at play, and both teams already have secured bowl eligibility. For N.C. State, this would be the Wolfpack’s best win of the season. A UNC victory would help ease the pain of another rough first half of the season.
UNC 41, N.C. State 33