It’s rivalry week for North Carolina, with the Tar Heels traveling to Carter Finley Stadium to take on NC State in a Black Friday showdown. The Heels are now bowl eligible after a win over Wofford last week improved them to 6-5 on the season. Over in Raleigh, meanwhile, the Wolfpack is in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title, although they’re barely holding on by a thread. State beat Syracuse last week to improve to 8-3 on the year, and needs a Wake Forest loss this weekend for a chance to end up in Charlotte for the ACC title game. Don’t think the Tar Heels wouldn’t love to end that dream. So there is plenty on the line for this game, and it should be a good one. Kick-off is set for 7:00 Friday night on WBT.
This game will showcase two of the best quarterbacks in the ACC in UNC’s Sam Howell and State’s Devin Leary. After being held out last week with a shoulder injury, Howell is set to return Friday. He’s thrown for over 2700 yards this season, while Leary is fourth in the ACC with 3186. And both teams have potent offenses that average at least 33 points a game. But State’s defense could be the difference in the game. The Wolfpack features one of the best scoring defenses in the country, allowing just 18.7 points per game, and they’re 17th in the nation allowing just 321 yards per game. They’re an aggressive group, with 14 interceptions. They’ve got fast, physical linebackers, including Drake Thomas, who leads the team in tackles and has three picks. The front line is outstanding, anchored by senior defensive lineman Daniel Joseph. They’ll face a UNC offense that features Howell and sophomore receiver Josh Downs, who has 90 catches and is 9th in the nation with 1198 receiving yards.
The Wolfpack features a pair of 6’3 receivers in Emeka Emezie and Devin Carter. Emezie has a team leading 55 receptions for 690 yards and four touchdowns, while Carter is averaging 18 yards a catch and has six scores. Junior Thayer Thomas is in the slot, he leads the team with seven touchdowns. The Pack has an outstanding tandem at running back in Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person, Jr. They’ve combined for 1257 yards and eight touchdowns. They’ll definitely challenge UNC’s defense, which ranks 99th in the country allowing 175 rushing yards per game.
by Sharon Thorsland