UNC's Mack Brown Previews Wolfpack

Brett Friedlander

It's always a big deal anytime NC State is matched up against North Carolina on the football field. Saturday's rivalry game in Chapel Hill, however, has taken on even more for several reasons.

This will mark the first time since 1993 that the Wolfpack and Tar Heels both come into the game nationally ranked. UNC checks in at No. 13 in the Coaches Poll and No. 14 in the AP Top 25 while State debuted this week at No. 23 in Coaches Poll and No. 24 by the AP.

It's also a game in which both teams are coming off major losses -- although the Wolfpack's loss of quarterback Devin Leary has the potential to be more of a factor moving forward than the Tar Heels' upset at the hands of Florida State.

Regardless of the circumstances, emotions are guaranteed to run high -- as UNC coach Mack Brown noted in his comments Monday during his regular weekly meeting with the media.

Here's what Brown had to say about the  matchup and the Wolfpack:

"We have a month of rival games, which is really, really unusual. We've got NC State at home, we go to Virginia and then we've got at Duke and then we've got Wake Forest here. So it'll be really interesting to see if me, our coaches and our players can get everybody up at the height of their emotion for four straight weeks before we get a weekend off, because that's really hard to do. And I do know those four teams, you're gonna play hard against us. So we've got to see if we're ready with our program to play hard against them.

"Devin Leary, the quarterback at NC State, hurt his leg. he's playing really, really well. We hate to see anybody get hurt. These young people that are playing college football are really special and even more this year with COVID for them to be out there and working. So we want to wish Devin the best and hope he has a full and speedy recovery. 

"I got out of coaching before because I couldn't handle losing. I hated to see kids get hurt because it was out of their control and they were working so hard and then when a kid got in trouble or changed their lives over some stupid act, it just really, really bothered me. So those air things that are really, really difficulty for coaches handling the young people.

"NC State's doing really well. I think we've been overrated. I think they've been underrated. They’re 4-1. On offense, Tim Beck has come in. He was Nebraska, Ohio State and I knew him in Texas and he's done a really good job with their offense.

“They're physical up front, they're running the ball, they've got two outstanding backs. They've got a tight end, (Cary) Angeline, who is 6-7, 250, a transfer from USC and he's really, really good. (Bailey) Hockman will be the quarterback, probably, and he's a transfer from FSU. They’ve got tall receivers, so they're doing a great job running the ball and using play action on their offense.

“Defensively, Dave (Doeren) hired Tony Gibson who a lot of our guys know from West Virginia. He's running a three-man front. They're really, really aggressive. They've had three of the best goal line stands I've ever seen. One at Pitt, one against Virginia and one last week against Duke.

“They're playing really, really aggressive on defense. (Alim) McNeil's 320-pound guy that's on the nose. You’ve got to be strong up the middle. Peyton Wilson and Isaiah Moore are two of the best linebackers, probably the two best linebackers we've played as a group together. Those guys were really aggressive and and should be a tough ballgame. And they blocked two punts. One against Virginia, one against Duke, so they'll sure be excited about seeing us punt.

“The other thing that amazed me is this is the first time since 1993, 27 years that both teams have been rated at the same time. So what a great compliment to the high school coaches and high school players in the state that these two programs are back to being good again and it just highlights high school football in the state. That’s really cool.”

“As far as our top-five rating, we're ahead of schedule as a team, our recruiting is going really well, we're playing hard. But we weren't the top five team in the country. Now part of that was because the Big Ten wasn't playing yet. Part of it’s because we'd won two or three games, but I didn't think we handled it well. 

"I thought we were a little comfortable at Florida State instead of confident, and we got hit right in the mouth. And thank goodness we responded to it and came back and still had a chance to win. But I felt like it was a little bit like our response at Wake Forest last year after we'd beaten South Carolina and Miami.”

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