Trying to Bounce Back
Chapel Hill, NC - Two intrastate opponents stand in the way as North Carolina makes a last-ditch effort to win the ACC Coastal Division.
North Carolina State is not one which the Tar Heels should take lightly.
Having fallen out of first place in the division, the 25th-ranked Tar Heels look to hand the last-place Wolfpack their first loss against North Carolina-based schools as the conference rivals meet Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made North Carolina –11 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on NC State +11 (View College Football bet percentages).
North Carolina (7-3, 3-3) dropped out of first place in the Coastal Division and fell eight spots in the poll after losing 17-15 to Maryland last Saturday. The Tar Heels, who conclude the regular season against Duke on Nov. 29, need to win their final two regular-season games to have any chance at catching first-place Miami (7-3, 4-2).
The Blue Devils are in last place in the Coastal Division and the Wolfpack (4-6, 2-4) are at the bottom of the Atlantic. N.C. State, however, is fighting to become bowl eligible, has won two straight and is tough against state foes, going 3-0.
"We are starting to get a little better as the year goes on and things are getting a little interesting now," Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said.
A quarterback competition entering this week may not help North Carolina, which will face an N.C. State team set at that position with redshirt freshman Russell Wilson gaining confidence every week.
The Tar Heels relied on third-stringer Cameron Sexton to overcome the loss of starting quarterback T.J. Yates earlier this year. Now that Yates is healthy again, North Carolina might be ready to bring him back.
Coach Butch Davis said the Tar Heels will open the competition for the starting spot against North Carolina State.
Yates, recovering from a broken left ankle he suffered against Virginia Tech in September, has practiced for about two weeks. Sexton, meanwhile, has won four of six starts since the injury.
Sexton, though, struggled for the most part versus the Terrapins, completing 10 of 24 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
"It's no disrespect to Cam," Davis said of the competition. "Cam's done an outstanding job for the most part. We've won games with him, he's performed well, he's made some good decisions. ... Now that we have a situation where T.J.'s healthy, what is the best choice for our football team, because ultimately that's how you have to make decisions: what's the best for the football team at that given moment?"
Yates has the edge in game experience, starting all 12 games as a redshirt freshman last year and throwing for a school single-season record 2,655 yards and 14 touchdowns with 18 interceptions.
With Sexton under center against Maryland, North Carolina converted only one of 11 third downs. It was the Tar Heels' third loss by three points or fewer.
"As you're building this program, there's a lot of steps that go into building a program and not all of them are vertical, not all of them go up," Davis said. "We'll learn something from this. We've got a bunch of kids in that locker room that are hurting right now. But there's a lot to play for."
Wilson's emergence, meanwhile, has given N.C. State a dependable quarterback. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in a 21-17 win over Wake Forest last Saturday night.
Wilson, who has thrown 12 TDs while getting picked off once, was named the conference's rookie of the week. He has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games, the most by an N.C. State quarterback since Philip Rivers had five straight games with multiple touchdown passes in 2003.
"What I love about him is that his decision making is so right at the appropriate time," N.C. State running back Andre Brown said. "He's going to be scary. I am glad I am playing with him my senior year, but I wish we had come in together."
He helped the Wolfpack win their second straight against an in-state league rival, and move to 3-0 against North Carolina-based schools from the Bowl Subdivision and take another step toward bowl eligibility.
N.C. State's victory last week over Duke the previous week was its first since knocking off then-No. 15 East Carolina on Sept. 20. The Wolfpack can still become bowl eligible it they win their final two games.
North Carolina leads the all-time series 63-28-6.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
N CAROLINA is 11-5 against the spread versus NC STATE since 1992
N CAROLINA is 11-5 straight up against NC STATE since 1992
6 of 11 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
N CAROLINA is 1-1 against the spread versus NC STATE over the last 3 seasons
N CAROLINA is 1-1 straight up against NC STATE over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at N CAROLINA since 1992
N CAROLINA is 5-3 against the spread versus NC STATE since 1992
N CAROLINA is 5-3 straight up against NC STATE since 1992
3 of 6 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons.
N CAROLINA is 1-0 against the spread versus NC STATE over the last 3 seasons
N CAROLINA is 1-0 straight up against NC STATE over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
No significant injuries.
(!) [QB] TJ Yates is expected to miss at least 6 weeks. - Ankle - 09/22/08
[FB] Anthony Elzy expected to miss at least 6 weeks - Shoulder - 10/25/08
[WR] Brandon Tate expected to miss remainder of the season - ACL - 10/18/0
[TE] Zack Pianalto missed last game %27?%27 - Ankle - 10/25/08
[OL] Calvin Darity is %27?%27 - Leg - 11/05/08
[LB] Kennedy Tinsley out for season - Suspension - 11/02/08
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Posted: 11/18/08 4:23 AM ET