Game Day: Five Questions for UNC vs NC State

unc vs state1. Whose State?

Last year, NC State kicked off the “This is Our State” marketing campaign. This included commercials, billboards and even yard signs. North Carolina fans, myself included, have largely laughed this off as a tad delusional given how little success the Wolfpack have to show against the Tar Heel in athletic competition. The thing is people really only pay attention to football and basketball. Yes, baseball is starting to creep into the “sports we care about” range but mostly what you do against your rival in the two bigger sports sways the public perception. That means an NC State win is a way of legitimizing this business but a Tar Heel win is just more reason to laugh at a rival’s inability to grasp reality.

2. Does anyone know anything about Brandon Mitchell?

Brandon Mitchell started the season as NC State’s quarterback and within a half of football was injured. He returned to action last week against Florida State and to his credit is still alive. Because Mitchell’s game experience includes a half versus a weak Louisiana Tech team and a full game against the Destroyer of Worlds in Tallahassee, there isn’t much real information to go on. This could hurt the Tar Heels in some ways. The lack of game film makes it tougher to prepare for a player and the UNC defense needs every edge it can find. Mitchell is mobile and that dimension is an aspect the UNC defense will need to address. Beyond that, it could very well be a crapshoot.

3. Is the two QB system here to stay at UNC?

It is probably not a true dual quarterback system since Bryn Renner is still getting more snaps than Marquise Williams. However it appears that Larry Fedora may be figuring out the best ways to utilize both his quarterbacks. Renner is still the best passing option UNC has available. He went 18-21 versus Boston College and at one point during the Miami game completed 15 straight passes. The issue with Renner is he also took a pair of bad sacks on Saturday which stalled good drives. Williams’ passing is not nearly as efficient but he ended up being UNC’s leading rusher with 55 yards versus the Eagles. Some of that yardage came on designed runs but some of it didn’t.

That probably speaks to the depth of issues in the Tar Heel running game that Williams is the leading rusher. Running two quarterbacks is one part design, one part guessing. If you can ensure the right quarterback is out there in the right situation it increases the chances for success. And sometimes you can’t know that so in the end, whoever is in the game, simply needs to make plays. Consistency from both players, more than anything else, will make the dual quarterback system function successfully.

4. Obligatory question about the UNC rushing attack

You know what? Forget it. The offensive line is what it is. The running backs can only do so much. Maybe it happens this game or maybe it doesn’t happen at all. At this point, the safe bet is on the latter.

No, I’m not bitter about it. #sarcasm

5. Is there importance in this game beyond the bragging rights?

I would say yes, because both teams would like to make a bowl game. Now, it is debatable the level of importance of going to some lower tier bowl game, especially when schools lose money on the deal. Still, the value of having that extra month of practice can’t be overstated. For both NC State and UNC, a loss in this game is likely a death blow to bowl eligibility. Both would have to run the table at that point and that doesn’t seem likely for either. So whoever wins this game can claim bragging rights and have a firmer grasp on the possibility of making a bowl.

In other words, the stakes are about as low as they can get.