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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 North Carolina at Clemson

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s rivalry week for North Carolina, with the 8-3 Tar Heels taking on #24 NC State in Raleigh in a prime time showdown. The Heels are coming off a brutal loss to Clemson that completely squashed any faint hopes of a berth in the ACC title game, and left UNC fans wondering what happened to the team that was 6-0 and ranked 10th in the country just a month ago? Over in Raleigh, meanwhile, the Wolfpack (8-3) has rebounded from an up and down start to the season with four straight wins, most recently over Virginia Tech. Kick-off is set for 8:00 Saturday night on WBT.

State has had musical quarterbacks this season, starting with Virginia transfer Brennan Armstrong before moving to sophomore MJ Morris then back to Armstrong. It’s been a bit of a rocky ride for Armstrong, who’s thrown for 1,287 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions, but was benched midway through the season in favor of Morris, who then decided to red-shirt. So Armstrong is back in the driver’s seat. He’s been more effective running the ball recently, with 236 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the last three games, and actually is the Wolfpack’s top rusher this season. Junior running back Delbert Mimms the third is a power runner, he’s only got 225 yards but has scored seven touchdowns. Do it all player Kevin Concepion is Armstrong’s favorite receiver, he’s got 636 yards and eight touchdowns. He also lines up at running back and has even thrown a touchdown pass this season. UNC’s defense has gone backwards the past four games, particularly against the run, giving up 160 yards per game on the ground.

State’s defense has no such problems. The Wolfpack is allowing just 20 points per game, that’s 30th in the country, and has forced at least one turnover in every game this season. Star linebacker Payton Wilson leads the way, the senior is all over the field, with five sacks and two interceptions, including a pick six. He also leads the team in tackles. Defensive tackle Davin Vann has 5.5 sacks, while safety Bishop Fitzgerald anchors the secondary. They’ll be tasked with trying to slow down UNC’s potent offense, which ranks 3rd in the nation averaging over 514 yards per game. Star quarterback Drake Maye has thrown for over 3300 yard and 17 touchdowns, and the UNC run game is outstanding, averaging 213 yards per game behind Omarion Hampton, who leads the country with 1,414 rushing yards.

This is the 113th match-up between these teams. State has win five of the last seven and two straight, including a double overtime win in Chapel Hill last season. The Tar Heels want to get back on the winning side of the rivalry, but the Wolfpack is peaking at the right time, and will be a tough out. This game doesn’t mean anything on the national scale but 10-win seasons are on the line, as well as a better bowl game. And of course – bragging rights. To earn those, UNC will have to make sure the offense is clicking and tighten up the defense in a big way. Go Tar Heels!