North Carolina will try to salvage what has been a dismal season Saturday by knocking off host North Carolina State in the 107th meeting of the ACC rivals. The Tar Heels come in riding a two-game winning streak while the Wolfpack are sputtering after losing three of their last four games.
The first order of business for the Tar Heels is to account for N.C. State senior defensive end Bradley Chubb, a Chuck Bednarik Award finalist who has 10 sacks and 22 tackles for loss this season. “You’ve got to make sure you know where he’s at,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora told the media. “And your tackles, there’s not a time where they can take a play off, because if they do, he’s going to make you look really bad.” The Wolfpack defense has played well for the most part, but has allowed 30 or more points four times - all losses. The North Carolina offense, meanwhile, went six games without breaking 20 points, but has since hit its stride by scoring 34 and 65 in back-to-back wins.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: N.C. State -16.5
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (3-8, 1-6 ACC): After a difficult beginning, Nathan Elliott has settled into the role of starting quarterback for the Tar Heels. The sophomore has thrown for 475 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games and has formed a connection with sophomore Anthony Ratliff-Williams, who has 10 catches for 163 yards and two scores over that span. “We’ve built a little momentum with all these young guys that are playing, and every positive thing that can happen for us is important,” Fedora told the media. “Anytime you can create momentum, it’s good for your program.”
ABOUT NC STATE (7-4, 5-2): The Wolfpack have no shortage of weapons on offense and chief among them is Jaylen Samuels, who has accounted for a team-high 14 touchdowns (10 rushing). The 5-11 senior tight end is effective as a runner and receiver, and has racked up 1,901 all-purpose yards this season for coach Dave Doeren, who is in search of his fourth win against the Tar Heels. Junior quarterback Ryan Finley has thrown for 2,996 yards but only 16 touchdowns, including four apiece to Samuels, Jakobi Meyers and Kelvin Harmon.
1. Chubb has had back-to-back seasons of at least 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, and needs one sack to pass Mario Williams (25.5) for most in school history.
2. North Carolina leads the series 66-34-6 after winning seven of the last 10 meetings, but its advantage slips to 35-29 since the teams joined the ACC in 1953.
3. Nyheim Hines and Reggie Gallaspy II have combined for 1,262 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground for the Wolfpack.
PREDICTION: N.C. State 37, North Carolina 23