UNC (2-5, 1-3 ACC) at N.C. State (3-4, 0-4 ACC)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Carter-Finley Stadium
PPG: North Carolina 25.0; N.C. State 23.6
Allowed: North Carolina 27.7; N.C. State 25.1
3 and out
Matchup to watch: N.C. State receivers vs. North Carolina secondary. N.C. States offensive strength is its rushing game, particularly with Shadrach Thornton back in the fold. The key Saturday will be how successful the Pack is through the air against UNCs suddenly shutdown secondary.
The Pack ranks 63rd in the country in passing. Injuries obviously have impacted the numbers, but quarterback Brandon Mitchell is back along with Rashard Smith and Quinton Payton. Bryan Underwood has a team-high 382 receiving yards. The Heels have given up big plays in the passing game but rebounded with four interceptions against Miami.
Magic number: 3. UNC coaches since 1913 who started 2-0 against N.C. State. Ray Wolf did it in 1936 and 37; George Barclay in 1953 and 54; and Carl Torbush in 1998 and 99. Larry Fedora has a chance to join the group Saturday.
Why North Carolina is favored: Better passing game. On paper, the Wolfpack allowed just 224 yards per game. It largely contained Clemsons Tajh Boyd, but had no chance last week at FSU against Heisman candidate Jameis Winston.
UNCs Bryn Renner has thrown for 1,641 yards and 10 touchdowns while sharing more snaps recently with dual-threat Marquise Williams, who has added 445 passing yards and five touchdown throws. The Tar Heels have playmakers and a decided advantage regardless of who covers tight end Eric Ebron.
Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3 ACC) at Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Carrier Dome
PPG: Wake Forest 22, Syracuse 26.9
Allowed: Wake Forest 20.3, Syracuse 29.0
3 and out
Keep an eye on: Syracuse junior running back Jerome Smith. The Orange ranks 36th nationally in rushing, primarily because of Smith. He has rushed for eight touchdowns and 525 yards. He gained a then season-high 125 yards against Clemson, then topped that by going for 140 the next week against N.C. State.
With one handoff on Saturday, Smith will be at 100 attempts for the season, which is still 127 short of his total last year. But Smiths knack for the end zone has made him the most important player for the Orange this season, and his nine touchdowns (he also has one receiving) have more than doubled his career scoring output.
Magic number: 5. Times Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has taken the Deacons to a bowl game. Syracuse is almost a must-win if he wants to make it 6 this season. Wake closes with FSU, Duke and Vanderbilt of the SEC.
Why Wake Forest is the underdog: Syracuse is favored by a field goal largely because of its rushing game vs. Wakes run defense. The Deacons have kept teams out of the end zone but are allowing 149.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks eighth in the ACC.
East Carolina (5-2, 3-1 C-USA) at Florida International (1-6, 1-2 C-USA)
Kickoff: 6 p.m., FIU Stadium
PPG: East Carolina 37.1; Florida International 11.1
Allowed: East Carolina 23.4; Florida International 37.1
3 and out
Keep an eye on: FIU freshman running back Silas Spearman III. Spearman was not the opening day starter, but he has gotten at least 15 carries over the past three games and is averaging 73 yards with a combined three touchdowns. Hes the lone bright spot on one of FBS most anemic offenses.
Magic number: 37.3. The Pirates have shown off some offensive fireworks this season, but that offensive attack might be better on the road. Through three games away from Dowdy-Ficklen, ECU has averaged 37.3 points per game slightly better than its 37.1 average overall. With a 2-1 record on the road, the offense hasnt struggled, including a 55-point output against UNC.
Why East Carolina is favored: ECU outmatches FIU in nearly every facet, but none more so than the passing game. The Golden Panthers are giving up just 209.3 yards passing per game, but have surrendered 14 touchdowns and will be going against the No. 2 scoring offense and No. 1 passing offense in the C-USA in ECU.
ECU also touts the No. 1 rushing defense and No. 2 total defense in C-USA. If the Pirates stingy rushing defense, which is allowing just 87 yards and an astounding three touchdowns this season, can shut down Spearman, they should move to 4-1 before heading back home for their final two home games.
Other area games
Bethune-Cookman (7-1, 4-0 MEAC) at N.C. Central (4-4, 2-2 MEAC), 2 p.m., Durham: The Eagles got back to their winning ways last week with a 24-10 victory against Savannah State, but will be hard-pressed to continue that success against No. 12 Bethune-Cookman, which has outscored conference opponents by an average of 18.25 points per game through four games.
Johnson C. Smith (4-4, 2-4 CIAA) at St. Augustine's (3-5, 2-3 CIAA), 1:30 p.m., Raleigh: The Falcons have dropped two straight and host a Johnson C. Smith team that has lost three straight and hasnt won a road game. It seems like the perfect storm for St. Augs ahead of its season finale with Shaw.
Shaw (5-3, 3-2 CIAA) at Winston-Salem State (7-1, 5-0 CIAA), 1:30 p.m., Winston-Salem: The Bears have won three straight but face the conference-leading Rams, who have won seven straight since dropping their season-opener against UNC Pembroke.
Campbell (1-7, 0-5 PFL) at Stetson (1-6, 0-4 PFL), 1 p.m., DeLand, Fla.: Somebodys streak is ending. Each team has lost six straight. Its a good opportunity for Campbell coach Mike Minter to get his first PFL victory.
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