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Your guide to college football's opening weekend in North Carolina

 A football lays near a yard marker at UNC's Kenan Stadium on Aug. 27, 2022.
Mitchell Northam
A football lays near a yard marker at UNC's Kenan Stadium on Aug. 27, 2022.

College football is back. And this weekend will mark a historic one, on a few levels, for teams in North Carolina.

The Tar Heels of UNC-Chapel Hill are going up the mountain and playing at Appalachian State for the first time ever. N.C. State — with its highest ranking in the AP preseason poll since 1975 — is renewing its rivalry with East Carolina in Greenville. And North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T are marking the 100th anniversary of the first Aggie-Eagle Classic, on a big stage in Charlotte.

No. 22 Wake Forest opened its season Thursday night with a 44-10 victory the Virginia Military Institute, while Duke begins a new era of football under Mike Elko on Friday evening against Temple.

Here’s everything you need to know about the most important football games in North Carolina during Week One of the 2022 college football season.

UNC at App State

Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark, right, claps next to quarterback Chase Brice (7) after an extra point during the first half of the Sun Belt Conference championship NCAA college football game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
Matthew Hinton
Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark stands next to quarterback Chase Brice during the Sun Belt Conference championship game against Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

  • Records last season: The Tar Heels were 6-7. The Mountaineers went 10-4.
  • Head coaches: In his second stint in Chapel Hill, Mack Brown enters his fourth season. In Boone, Shawn Clark begins his third full season.
  • Top players: Quarterback Chase Brice threw for a school-record 3,337 yards for App State last year. UNC wide receiver Josh Downs was a First Team All-ACC selection last season.
  • Kickoff time: Noon, EST
  • Watch: ESPNU

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that this is the most anticipated football game in the history of Kidd Brewer Stadium. The game was sold out in July and leaders at App State are expecting the biggest crowd in program history. They’re even bringing in temporary bleachers to expand the number of seats available.

UNC and App State have played in each other in football just twice ever, but never in Boone. App State won the last time the two sides faced off, 34-31 in Chapel Hill in 2019. On offense, the Mountaineers will lean on Brice, the fifth-year senior under-center. Meanwhile, UNC redshirt freshman Drake Maye will start his second game at quarterback. A week ago, he threw for 294 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Florida A&M in a Week Zero tune-up.

No. 13 N.C. State at ECU

Dave Doeren
Mitchell Northam
N.C. State football coach Dave Doeren talks with reporters at the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte on July 20, 2022.

  • Records last season: The Wolfpack were 9-3 last season. The Pirates finished 7-5.
  • Head coaches: Dave Doeren enters his 10th season in Raleigh. Mike Houston is beginning his fourth year in Greenville.
  • Top players: Quarterback Devin Leary is tabbed as the Preseason ACC Player of the Year after throwing for 35 touchdowns for the Wolfpack last season. ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers was responsible for 25 scores last year.
  • Kickoff time: Noon, EST
  • Watch: ESPN

This will mark the 32nd meeting between the Wolfpack and the Pirates. The schools are separated by about 80 miles and the history between them dates back to 1970. While N.C. State holds the advantage in the series with 18 wins, they’ve only beaten ECU twice in seven games played outside of Raleigh. Since 2010, the Pirates have beaten the Pack twice in Greenville.

Wolfpack fans are expecting big things from this N.C. State team. Their No. 13 AP preseason ranking is the highest it has ever been under Doeren. Not only did the Pack bring back Leary, their talented quarterback, but they also return 10 starters on defense. But the Pack can’t overlook the Pirates. ECU brings back 15 returning starters from a team that qualified for a bowl game last season for the first time since 2014.

N.C. Central vs. N.C. A&T

 North Carolina A&T head football coach Sam Washington
Mitchell Northam
North Carolina A&T head football coach Sam Washington talks to reporters at Big South media day in Charlotte in 2021.

  • Records last season: The Aggies went 5-6 last season. The Eagles were 6-5.
  • Head coaches: Sam Washington is beginning his fifth season in Greensboro. Trei Oliver is entering his third season in Durham.
  • Top players: A&T linebacker Jacob Roberts blocked four kicks last season and garnered Preseason Big South honors from three different outlets. Central quarterback Davius Richard was tabbed as a top HBCU NFL Draft prospect by ESPN.
  • Kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. EST
  • Watch: ESPN3

This rivalry between two Division I HBCU’s in North Carolina began nearly a century ago, as the first game between the two sides was played on Nov. 23, 1922. Since then, the Aggies and Eagles have clashed on the football field 93 times, with A&T winning 54 of those games. This will be just the 15th time ever that the game is being played at a neutral site. The home of the Carolina Panthers — Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium — is hosting the contest and calling it the Duke’s Mayo Classic.

Often in the past, this game was played as part of the teams’ conference schedules, as both were previous members of the CIAA and the MEAC. But in 2020, A&T left the MEAC for the Big South, and they’re changing conferences again next season, jumping to the CAA. But fans shouldn’t worry. The Aggies and Eagles struck a deal to play each other annually in football through 2030. Currently, the Aggies own a four-game winning streak over the Eagles.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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