No. 11 North Carolina closes regular season at NC State
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina coach Larry Fedora starts team meetings by mentioning the goals of winning its Atlantic Coast Conference division and a mythical state title by beating all its instate opponents.
The No. 11 Tar Heels have accomplished the first. Now they're going for the second Saturday against rival North Carolina State with a shot of sweeping their instate ACC rivals for the first time in 11 years, not to mention avenge an ugly loss to the Wolfpack last year.
''I don't think they need extra motivation,'' UNC coach Larry Fedora said. ''They're motivated. They know what they've got to do. They know what's at stake. They've got another goal sitting there.''
The Tar Heels (10-1, 7-0, No. 14 CFP) wrapped up the Coastal Division title last week with the overtime win at Virginia Tech, securing a date with top-ranked Clemson in the ACC championship game on Dec. 5. They're 7-0 in the ACC for the first time in program history and have a chance to match the program single-season record for wins, last accomplished during an 11-1 season in 1997 under Mack Brown.
Now the Tar Heels have the chance to sweep the other three members of the ''Big Four'' - North Carolina-based ACC teams Duke, North Carolina State and Wake Forest - in the same season for the first time since 2004, according to STATS.
The Wolfpack (7-4, 3-4) physically beat up the Tar Heels last year, running for 388 yards and overwhelming UNC's high-scoring offense a 35-7 road win - a performance that had coach Dave Doeren touting a team that played up to the standard of a ''hands-in-the-dirt school ... founded by tough people.''
''If you run the ball for 300 yards in a game and win, that says something about you,'' Doeren said. ''That is who we want to be. ... It has nothing to do with what they are over there. I'm talking about what I want to be here. I don't think I said anything that misrepresents anything that I feel about NC State.''
Here are some other things to know about Saturday's North Carolina-North Carolina State matchup:
HOOD' RUNS: That opening-night loss when top rusher Elijah Hood barely touched the ball feels like a long time ago. Hood recently became the program's latest 1,000-yard rusher and is second in the ACC with 14 rushing touchdowns. Getting him going will have to be a priority for the Tar Heels.
CONTAINING QUARTERBACKS: Both North Carolina State's Jacoby Brissett and UNC's Marquise Williams can run or throw effectively, and Brissett ran for 167 yards in last year's dominating win. It's going to be up to each defensive front to keep the mobile quarterbacks contained.
REVERSING RESULTS: UNC cornerback Des Lawrence figures this year's Tar Heels are better equipped to respond if the Wolfpack again comes out with last year's same physical edge. ''We can't worry about what happened last year,'' Lawrence said. ''We're just going to go out there Saturday, play our game and do what we do and then get off the field.''
LOOKING AHEAD: The Tar Heels wants to keep their run of success going, but will they look ahead to the matchup with the Tigers in pursuit of their first ACC title since 1980? Of course, UNC knows it has to win out to even have a shot at making the second College Football Playoff. ''Guys are definitely excited and stuff,'' Williams said, ''but we still have a lot of season left to play.''
ROWDY ENVIRONMENT: Wolfpack fans hate no school more than North Carolina, a nearby rival located about a 30-minute drive away along Interstate 40. That sets up for a rowdy and hostile crowd awaiting to test the Tar Heels' focus on North Carolina State's Senior Day.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.
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