Rarity: UNC, NC State Meet In Top 25 Football Showdown
No. 23 North Carolina State at No. 14 North Carolina looks like the game of the week in the ACC.
The one-loss football teams located 35 miles apart meet with the winner staying within sight of unbeaten ACC leaders Clemson and Notre Dame. They’re matched while ranked for just the third time ever and for the first time since Sept. 25, 1993, when UNC won 35-14.
The Wolfpack (4-1, 4-1 ACC) have won three in a row but will be without quarterback Devin Leary, who sustained a broken fibula against Duke and could miss the rest of the season. Junior Bailey Hockman, who started the first two games and finished last week’s 31-20 win, takes over behind center.
The Tar Heels (3-1, 3-1) look to rebound from being upset 31-28 at Florida State. Running back Michael Carter enters ranked second in the ACC in all-purpose yards (156.5 yards per game) and third in rushing (119.5) for an attack averaging 35.2 points. North Carolina leads the series 67-36-6, including last year’s 41-10 victory, but N.C. State has won nine of the past 12.
A player to watch is North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson, who has a tough act to follow after recording a team-high 19 tackles and two of the Wolfpack’s three interceptions in the win over Duke. The sophomore leads the ACC at 11 stops per game, which ranks sixth in the Bowl Subdivision, despite missing the Virginia Tech contest with an injury. Wilson led State in tackles last season despite starting one game.
UNC has been powered on defense by the pass-rushing duo of Tomari Fox and Chazz Surratt, who have combined for eight sacks and 13 tackles-for-loss through four games.
Saturday’s game between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack kicks off at noon and will air on ESPN.
WUNC Digital Producer Mitchell Northam contributed to this story.