In-state bragging rights and a possible bowl bid will be on the line this weekend when the NC State Wolfpack plays host to the North Carolina Tar Heels. Kickoff is set for 7:00 EST on Saturday, November 30 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fans can catch all of the action on the ACC Network.
Oddsmakers list the Tar Heels as 8-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 55.5 points. Be sure to check out all of the Week 14 college football betting odds.
It’s truly been a whirlwind season for Mack Brown in his first year back in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels couldn’t have asked for a better start, upending both South Carolina and Miami to start the season 2-0. However, it’s been a struggle for UNC ever since, winning just two of their next eight games before notching a win last week against FCS opponent Mercer last week.
As it stands, the Tar Heels are 5-6 and in need of a win in their season finale to qualify for a bowl game. In a way, Brown is already ahead of schedule because so little was expected of the Tar Heels this year. But getting to a bowl would be a huge accomplishment for North Carolina and a great stepping stone for the future.
Meanwhile, NC State appears to have taken multiple steps back this season. The Wolfpack started the year 3-1 and looked to put together another solid season after back-to-back 9-win campaigns under Dave Doeren. But things started to fall apart for the Wolfpack in late September. NC State has now lost five straight games and is just 1-6 in ACC play.
Despite a string of lopsided losses in October and early November, the Wolfpack hit rock bottom last week when they lost to Georgia Tech 28-26. The loss took away any hope of NC State reaching a bowl game, snapping a run of five straight bowl seasons. Losing to Georgia Tech also creates a strong argument that NC State is the worst team in the ACC this season.
The Wolfpack will get one last chance to save face when they end the season against one of their biggest rivals. There’s no official trophy for this game, but the rivalry between these two schools that are located less than 50 miles apart dates back to 1894. NC State has gotten the better of the series lately, winning three in a row and nine of the last 12 meetings. The two teams also got into a brawl after the Wolfpack scored a game-winning touchdown in overtime to end last year’s game, so tensions between the two sides should be high.
Before last week’s loss to Georgia Tech, all of NC State’s other losses had come by at least two touchdowns. That doesn’t inspire much confidence, even as a single-digit underdog. Meanwhile, UNC is at least a middle-of-the-pack ACC team and I don’t think NC State is nowhere close to that level. With the way that they’ve played this season and seeing that all six of their losses have come by a touchdown or less, the Tar Heels deserve to go to a bowl. I think they’ll get the win they need and do so by a comfortable margin, covering the 8-point spread.
To be honest, picking this game is Football 101: North Carolina has a quarterback and NC State doesn’t. Quite frankly, that’s all you need to know. UNC has stumbled upon their long-term answer at quarterback with true freshman Sam Howell. In 11 games, Howell has thrown 32 touchdown passes and limited himself to just six interceptions. While his completion percentage still leaves something to be desired, Howell has played like a veteran and should be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC for three more years.
The Tar Heels also have a fine supporting cast around their young quarterback. The running back tandem of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams is as steady and balanced as any in the conference. The pair have combined for over 1,500 yards and both are averaging better than five yards per carry. UNC also has a dynamic duo at receiver in Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown. That group figures to be too much for an NC State that’s giving up over 41 points per game during their current five-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, the Wolfpack has found no answers at quarterback this season. Devin Leary, who is the third different quarterback NC State has used this year, continues to start and continues to disappoint. He was a little better last week, but that was against a lackluster Georgia Tech defense. Plus, he still didn’t do enough to deliver the win for the Wolfpack. NC State has some quality at the skill positions, but most have underachieved this year with inadequate quarterback play.
In the end, the Tar Heels are a safe bet to make plays and score points with Howell at quarterback. The freshman is averaging close to three touchdown passes per game, so I have no doubt that the Tar Heels will push for 30 points, if not exceed that total. On the other hand, NC State has exceeded 20 points just twice in their seven ACC games. The math dictates that North Carolina will win this game by a comfortable margin, so I’ll lay down the points and look for the Tar Heels to cover.