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UNC Football Preview: North Carolina vs. (10) Wake Forest

North Carolina welcomes Wake Forest, looking to put the first blemish on the Demon Deacons' record.

Carolina welcomes Wake Forest to Chapel Hill on Saturday for the second straight season. Wake is undefeated (8-0, 5-0), ranked in the top 10 (No. 10 AP, No. 9 Coaches), and looking to knock off the Heels on the road for the first time since 2006.

Due to weird ACC scheduling since the expansion, Carolina and Wake don’t typically play each other (UNC is in the Coastal, Wake in the Atlantic) so the universities decided to put some non-conference contests on the calendar, including this one.

The last time one team hosted this series twice in a row was 1966 and 1967 when Wake Forest came to Chapel Hill. The Demon Deacons won both of those matchups.

The Tar Heels are currently a “tale of two sides of the ball”. The defense is struggling mightily while the offense is looking more unified as the season goes on.

Mack Brown wants to win the state of North Carolina. Tar Heels already knocked off Duke this season and still have this game and NC State to close out the regular season.

Against the other three ACC teams in the state, Coach Brown is 6-1 in his second stint in Chapel Hill. He lost at Wake in the third game of his Carolina return, but has won six in a row against those three schools since.

Despite the stark difference in the teams’ records, UNC is favored. The line opened at -4.5 and sits at -2.5 as of Friday.

Wake Forest is yet to play a ranked team, so it’s difficult to truly pinpoint the Deacons’ ceiling or capability. One thing for certain, Wake is scoring a ton of points. Their lowest output is 35. They are averaging 43.4 points a game. This is not a welcome sight for a Carolina defense that has given up 35, 42, and 44 points in the last three games.

Thankfully though, the Carolina offense is clicking right now and Sam Howell has had success against the Demon Deacons in the past, throwing for a Carolina record 550 yards and six touchdown in last year’s contest.

Speaking of which, the Tar Heels put together an incredible comeback last season against the Demon Deacons. The Tar Heels reeled off 35 unanswered after Wake took a 45-24 lead with 6:56 left in the third quarter.

Side note – take the over in this game.

Another potential Sam Howell record to keep an eye on: Marquise Williams currently holds the UNC record for total career offense with 10,423 yards. Sam Howell is only 238 yards from that number.

Carolina’s lofty expectations for this season are gone, but a bowl game is very much still in the cards. However, if they want to get there, they’ll need to win two of their last four, and it won’t be a walk in the park. One of the final four games is against Wofford, which Carolina will win.

Other than that and the Wake Forest game, the Heels are on the road against Pittsburgh and NC State. So the question is: Where can Mack Brown’s team find another win?

The Tar Heels are 3-0 this year after a loss, so that bodes well for their prospects against Wake Forest. Additionally, the home team has won the last six matchups in the series.

Perhaps that other win is Saturday in Kenan Stadium.

TAR HEELS ON OFFENSE

Could it be that Sam Howell and company are hitting their stride? It has taken the Tar Heel signal caller some time to fully mesh with his new complement of skill players.

Ty Chandler is has cemented himself as the most dependable of the running backs. He has 100-plus all-purpose yards in the last two games and three of the last four. If Chandler and Howell can establish the ground game early (as they did last week at Notre Dame), winning the time of possession battle can help keep the defense fresh and the Demon Deacon offense on the sidelines.

With a couple receivers recently entering the transfer portal, perhaps Sam Howell can form more chemistry with receivers not named Josh Downs. Antoine Green had a strong game last week and is the prime candidate to join Downs as the two most reliable receivers.

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Keep in mind: Sam Howell carved up the Deacons last year and will be looking to do the same once more.

TAR HEELS ON DEFENSE

Unlike several of Carolina’s opponents this season, the Demon Deacons have an unquestioned starter at quarterback. Sophomore Sam Hartman is having a breakout season with career highs in completions, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, and quarterback rating. He’s thrown for over 400 yards in back-to-back weeks and has at least three touchdown passes in three straight weeks. Hartman also has a rushing touchdown in four straight games. Amidst all that success, Hartman has only thrown three interceptions and none since October 9.

Aside from Hartman, Wake Forest has three other rushers with at least 50 attempts and 300 yards. Christian Beal-Smith leads the way with 492 yards and seven touchdowns on 97 attempts, but Justice Ellison (64 att, 240 yds, 4 TD) and Christian Turner (71 att, 317 yds, 3 TD) are not far behind.

None of the three RBs have been heavily utilized in the receiving game though (Beal-Smith has the most receptions with 6 and no RB has a receiving TD), so Carolina can scheme appropriately.

Similarly, Wake doesn’t use their TEs much in the passing game. Blake Whiteheart has the most receptions with five for 77 yards and one touchdown. No other TE has a touchdown.

Five different receivers have at least 15 receptions and a touchdown:

  • Jaquarii Roberson | 43 rec, 737 yds, 6 TD
  • AT Perry | 36 rec, 716 yrds, 8 TD
  • Taylor Morin | 24 rec, 311 yds, 3 TD
  • Ke’Shawn Williams | 17 rec, 264 yds, 3 TD
  • Donald Stewart | 15 rec, 175 yds, 1 TD

Wake’s lack of utilizing running backs and tight ends in the passing game could be a boon for Carolina. The Tar Heel defense has struggled mightily in recent weeks, so having fewer weapons to key on could be a recipe for success.

PREVIOUS GAMES

UNC

  • L 17-10 | @ Virginia Tech
  • W 59-17 | vs. Georgia State
  • W 59-39 | vs. Virginia
  • L 45-22 | @ Georgia Tech
  • W 38-7 | vs. Duke
  • L 35-25 | vs. Florida State
  • W 45-42 | vs. Miami
  • L 44-34 | @ (11) Notre Dame

WAKE FOREST

  • W 42-10 | vs. Old Dominion
  • W 41-16 | vs. Norfolk State
  • W 35-14 | vs. Florida State
  • W 37-17 | @ Virginia
  • W 37-34 | vs. Louisville
  • W 40-37 | @ Syracuse
  • W 70-56 | @ Army
  • W 45-7 | vs. Duke

Here’s all the nitty-gritty details you need to know about Game 9 of the 2021 UNC football season:

North Carolina (4-4, 3-3) vs. No. 10 Wake Forest (8-0, 5-0)

Chapel Hill, NC
Kenan Stadium
Saturday, November 6, 2021
Noon ET
ABC

All-time Series: North Carolina leads 70-36-2
Series Streak: North Carolina won 1
Last Meeting: Saturday, November 14, 2020 | Chapel Hill, NC | 59-53 UNC
Last Time UNC won: Saturday, November 14, 2020 | Chapel Hill, NC | 59-53 UNC
Last Meeting in Chapel Hill: Saturday, November 14, 2020 | Chapel Hill, NC | 59-53 UNC


NORTH CAROLINA
Record: 4-4 (3-3 ACC)
Head Coach: Mack Brown (Florida State, '74)
Overall Record: 263-136-1, 33rd year
Record at UNC: 88-60-1, 13th year

WAKE FOREST
Record: 8-0 (5-0 ACC)
Head Coach: Dave Clawson
Overall Record: 138-125, 22nd year
Record at Wake Forest: 48-45, 8th year

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