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North Carolina vs. NC State Preview Article


CTG Junior Moderator
North Carolina vs. NC State College Football Picks for Week 13

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. NC State Wolfpack
Friday, November 26, 2021 at 7 p.m. ET at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina

Misleading Tendency

North Carolina's losses have tended to involve an opposing mobile quarterback or, at least, a high-level opposing ground game.

The relevant teams against which UNC suffered defeat are Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Notre Dame.

These four examples may create the impression that a mobile quarterback or strong ground game are requirements for an offense to thrive against the Tar Heel defense.

But this impression would be a misleading one because North Carolina has not exactly relied on its defense in order to get past the ACC teams with top-ranked pass attacks that it has beaten.

For example, in Virginia, UNC benefitted from having an opponent with an abysmal defense.

The Tar Heels still allowed 39 points in that game while allowing quarterback Brennan Armstrong to accrue a season-high 554 passing yards and to tie another season-high with four passing touchdowns.

In a similar vein, UNC defeated Wake Forest, but allowed 55 points. Demon Deacon quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 398 yards and tied a season-high in passing touchdowns by accruing five of them.

Blown coverages and missed assignments contribute to UNC's defensive difficulties, which even lower-ranked ACC quarterbacks have been able to exploit with efficient passing performances.

NC State Offense

The consistent ability of opposing quarterbacks to succeed against the Tar Heel defense is relevant to note because NC State's offense is pass-heavy: the Wolfpack rank 13th nationally in pass-play percentage.

After a mediocre freshman season in 2019, quarterback Devin Leary made strong strides last year and he continues to improve.

His most notable performance came in his team's triumph at home over Clemson, which he aided through his efficient and mistake-free play.

Leary has eclipsed 300 passing yards in each of his last five games and he has accumulated 31 passing touchdowns to five interceptions this season.

Largely because of Leary and leading target Emeka Emezie, NC State has the ACC's fifth-most prolific pass attack.

Tim Beck's offensive philosophy is working well in Raleigh: Leary has some deep threats, but he is also happy dinking-and-dunking, throwing a lot of screens, and hitting players underneath. In these instances, UNC's tendency to miss tackles and its bad discipline -- which has contributed to the team's struggles against strong rushing attacks -- will be very apparent.

But NC State can also run effectively, in which respect it is led by Zonovan Knight and his 5.2 YPC and Ricky Person Jr. with his 4.6 YPC.

NC State is unique with its utilization of running backs in the passing game. Person Jr., for example, is fourth on the team in receptions.

Video footage shows that the Wolfpack like to get their running backs matched up against opposing linebackers.

Wheel routes and the like that benefit Wolfpack running backs in the passing game take time to develop, so it's important to note that the Tar Heel pass rush is weak. Nationally, UNC ranks well in the bottom half in sack rate.

North Carolina Offense vs. NC State Defense

Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell missed his team's game on Saturday. He is reportedly dealing with a shoulder injury.

He is expected to play. It will be interesting to see, though, if he is inclined to run.

Characteristically, he is a mobile quarterback. The Tar Heel offense thrives when Howell can run.

Conversely, North Carolina's lowest scoring outputs have come in games when Howell struggled to run the most.

When the Tar Heels mustered fewer than 24 points -- against Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech -- Howell mustered fewer than three YPC. Otherwise, he regularly eclipses five YPC.

I like the Wolfpack defense because, even if Howell is healthy enough to run, opposing quarterbacks regularly struggle against NC State's defense.

When NC State's pass defense, ranked 11th nationally in limiting opposing passer rating, takes away an opposing quarterback's pass-catching options, then of course he is more inclined to run.

But opposing quarterbacks -- Louisville's Malik Cunningham, for example, and Syracuse's Garrett Shrader, minus a long run when the score was 38-10 in favor of the Wolfpack -- regularly struggle to be efficient on the ground when facing NC State's defense.

Without his efficient running, Howell loses a crucial element that makes him more versatile and more complicated and difficult for defenses to account for.

The Verdict

NC State's offense will be able to do what it wants against the Tar Heel defense, while UNC's offense will fail to keep up against a strong Wolfpack defense that will make running difficult for Howell.

Best Bet: Wolfpack -6.5 at -113 with Heritage


Loves Exclamation Points
i really dont understand why ncst is so pass happy, i think they were a lot better in games where they gave knight and pearson a lot of touches, i really dont think Leary is all that great, i still lean ncst as well, just think their play calling sucks. not as if heels have a good coaching staff either!! lol

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