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Rarity: North Carolina, NC State meet in Top 25 showdown

Rarity: North Carolina, NC State meet in Top 25 showdown
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No. 23 North Carolina State at No. 14 North Carolina. The one-loss 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 and first 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 centre. 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.

BEST MATCHUP

The challenges continue for Pittsburgh’s defence, this time against No. 3 Notre Dame and an offence seeking a better performance than against Louisville. The Fighting Irish managed just 12 points and 338 yards against the Cardinals, nearly 103 under their average. The Panthers (3-3, 2-3) have dropped three in a row but rank second in ACC total defence (274.7). They’re also first against the rush (61.5) and aim to slow a Notre Dame ground game averaging 261 yards per outing.

LONG SHOTS

Syracuse enters as a 44 1/2-point underdog at Clemson and was drilled 41-6 in the last year’s matchup. The Orange are the last school to beat the Tigers in the regular season (2017), which seems long ago considering Clemson has won 34 in a row since then excluding post-season. Pittsburgh opened as a nine-point home underdog against No. 3 Notre Dame, which escaped slumping Louisville 12-7 at home.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert (148 yards rushing per game) leads the nation and six ACC backs in the top 24. Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams (121.5) and UNC’s Michael Carter (119.5) are sixth and seventh respectively, followed by Louisville’s Javian Hawkins (103.8, 15th), UNC’s Javonte Williams (100.5, 19th) and Wake Forest’s Kenneth Walker III (95.8, 24th).

IMPACT PLAYER

North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson 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.
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