N.C. State (3-1, 0-1 ACC) at Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2 ACC)
PREGAME CHATTER: The basic fact is undeniable: N.C. State hasn’t won in Winston-Salem since 2001. BB&T Field isn’t a remarkably overwhelming home site, but the Wolfpack has had trouble there nonetheless, losing their past five games to its in-state rival. To make matters even worse, N.C. State will be tested on the road for the first time today – even if it still is within the state.
WHAT IT MEANS: In the middle of what some might consider a rebuilding year, it will be important for the Wolfpack to pick up conference victories when it can. Breaking to losing trend in Winston-Salem could be just as important.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price is closing in on 40 career starts for the Demon Deacons and will be needed today. Price will have to take pressure off the rest of the team, but he has struggled so far this season. Currently, Price ranks eighth in passing yards and 10th in efficiency.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
ODDS: N.C. State by 9.5
TV/RADIO: RSN/WRAL 101.5 FM
North Carolina (1-3, 0-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: What a week it has been for the Tar Heels, and not in a good way. First, they lost on the field in a 55-31 defeat to East Carolina last week in Chapel Hill. If that weren’t bad enough, one of their assistant defensive coaches called out the unit for allowing 603 yards to the Pirates. Today is a new day, and it seemingly is a tough one, too. Virginia Tech has won four in a row, and the Tar Heels are going backward.
WHAT IT MEANS: North Carolina likely will not have a shot at winning the Coastal division if it loses today.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Tar Heels’ defense has redemption on their minds.
KICKOFF: 12:30 p.m.
ODDS: Virginia Tech by 6.5
TV/RADIO: WRAL/WRDU 106.1 FM
East Carolina (3-1, 1-0 C-USA) at Middle Tennessee (3-2, 1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: An early-season showdown between a conference newcomer and a soon-to-be departed East Carolina could hold merit when it comes time for the championship to be decided. Middle Tennessee has proven to be a force in its first year, but East Carolina is out to make its final season in Conference USA championship worthy.
WHAT IT MEANS: Both teams have started the year with a conference victory and are the only teams in the East Division to do so. Going up 2-0 on the rest of the contenders would be a positive step.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Shane Carden shined last week, scoring six touchdowns against North Carolina, but running back Vintavious Cooper will be key to keeping ECU balanced.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
ODDS: East Carolina by 9.5
TV/RADIO: FoxSports South/ WNCT 107.9 FM
LaGrange (1-2, 1-0 USAS) at N.C. Wesleyan (1-3, 1-0)
PREGAME CHATTER: The Bishops found their running game last week, and with it, found their first win. N.C. Wesleyan rushed for 189 yards, won the time-of-possession battle and converted half of its third-down conversions in its 24-20 win against Averett. All are signs of an offensive line that is playing better and making life easier on the offense.
WHAT IT MEANS: It’s Homecoming today at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex, and a bigger-than-normal crowd will be on hand to watch N.C. Wesleyan. Defending home turf will be important for the Bishops, who travel to play conference power Christopher Newport next week.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Again this week, it’s turnovers. The Bishops turned over the ball three times last week but forced six turnovers themselves, including a fumble return for a touchdown and three interceptions that saw returns of 25 yards or greater. Most games in the USA South are close. Turnovers are a great method to sway games in a team’s favor.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz