David Reynolds Assistant SportSaturday Editor
The end-of-season clash for all the gridiron bragging rights in North Carolina has finally arrived. No other football game between teams in the Tar Heel state matters more than today's North Carolina-N.C. State grudge match. It's the one sport where UNC's other primary rival Duke hasn't made an impact in a long time.
Going into its 2008 campaign the largest question mark for N.C. State's football team was the quarterback perhaps the most important position on any team. The Wolfpack had two players on its roster with extensive experience leading an offense but both had turned in mediocre performances in their time at the helm of the offense last season. Coach Tom O'Brien had a quartet of quarterbacks — Daniel Evans Mike Glennon Harrison Beck and Russell Wilson — to choose from. He ended up taking a chance with an inexperienced newbie the redshirt freshman Wilson.
When North Carolina's football team reached the six-win mark two weeks ago against Boston College a trip to college football's cash cow also known as bowl season became a near-certainty. Since the ACC has affiliations with nine bowl games it would be a major shock not to see the Tar Heels playing in December even if they lose the rest of their games. The payouts for the games UNC could potentially be involved in vary considerably. A $17 million payout was given to teams for an appearance in last year's FedEx Orange Bowl the BCS bowl with which the ACC has an official tie-in.
There isn't much that can stir up more groans and grumblings from fans than the switch to the prevent defense by their favorite team in the closing minutes of a close football game. A team's once-stout defense can appear to transform into a completion-allowing machine and most people wonder why the opposing offense can pile up so much yardage so effortlessly with the game hanging in the balance.
The Huskies roll into Chapel Hill today with an unblemished record and look to defend their new AP Top 25 ranking with a road victory against North Carolina. Though this matchup means nothing for the two teams' conference records more than pride will be on the line in this one as both teams are jockeying for bowl bids.
Every once in a while when UNC coach Butch Davis looks down at the linebacker section of UNC's depth chart he feels like a brand new father. A whopping 10 underclassmen fill the list and two sophomores even occupy the starting positions. That's quite a few bundles of joy to take on all at once.