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NC State vs. North Carolina Prediction: Wolfpack and Tar Heels Wrap Up the Regular Season in Chapel Hill

UNC looking to bounce back from last week's disappointing performance while NC State has lost two in a row.

North Carolina had survived by the skin of its teeth all season long, with one-score wins in six games, four of which were by a field goal or less. But it was still a major surprise when the Tar Heels were taken down by Georgia Tech last week. Losing as a 21-point favorite ended any dreams of a possible College Football Playoff appearance, and the Heels (9-2, 6-1 ACC) now have to regroup and focus on the next opponent.

And with rival NC State coming to Kenan Stadium this Friday, focus should not be a problem. The Wolfpack (7-4, 3-4) have their own set of concerns after dropping consecutive games to Boston College and Louisville. With their hopes of a second-ever 10-win season gone, bragging rights over UNC will be the primary motivator for the Pack this weekend.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 13

NC State pulled off a miracle comeback victory last year in Raleigh but North Carolina leads the all-time series 68-37-6.

NC State at No. 17 North Carolina

Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET
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Spread: North Carolina -7
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When NC State Has the Ball

Determining which quarterback will be taking snaps is priority number one for Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren. Devin Leary's midseason injury left the team scrambling until freshman M.J. Morris lit a spark under the NC State offense. But Morris missed last week with a knee injury. His status is day-to-day, and that is not good news as the Wolfpack offense with Jack Chambers or Ben Finley at quarterback has not had much success.

Whether Morris plays or not, finding a running game is vital for NC State's success on Friday. Jordan Houston and Michael Allen have had some nice moments this season, but the rushing attack as a whole has not been a strong suit. The Pack are 101st nationally in rushing offense and have been held below 100 yards four times in their last seven contests. The offensive line allowed five sacks last week, but the good news is they won't be going up against the Louisville front this week.

For what it's worth, North Carolina's defense did play one of its best games of the year against Georgia Tech. The 5.2 yards per play allowed was the best showing since the Virginia Tech game on Oct. 1 and for the first time this season, the defense was let down by the offense. Still, the Jackets had 186 rushing yards and, though it came on 49 carries, were efficient enough when it really mattered. With the Pack's uncertainty at quarterback, Carolina needs to stack the box and force State into as many third-and-long situations as possible.

When North Carolina Has the Ball

No one could have seen that coming. It was stunning to all that the nation's 87th-ranked total defense was the unit that gave the Carolina offense fits. The interesting part is that behind the running of Elijah Green, the Heels had 163 rushing yards. It was Drake Maye and the passing game that was the problem. Tech held the Heisman Trophy hopeful to just 202 passing yards and no touchdowns. Star receiver Josh Downs had just three catches for 30 yards as well as a huge drop that would have given Carolina the lead late in the game.

It's hard to imagine that happening again, but the real problems started up front, and that has been an issue that has festered for much of the season. Maye's talent has overcome the limitations of his offensive line most of the time, but the Yellow Jackets were able to make Carolina pay for lackluster blocking. Georgia Tech sacked Maye six times and seemed to be in his face all day and night. Considering what NC State does defensively, UNC will be putting the ball in the air a lot so the protection will have to greatly improve.

That's because the Wolfpack boast the nation's No. 9 run defense. They have held five opponents to less than 55 rushing yards and in consecutive games against Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Boston College, the Pack allowed 66 total yards on the ground. They are coming off one of their worst outings of the year as Louisville rolled up 192 rushing yards, so there is hope that this aspect of the Pack defense has sprung a leak. Injuries impacted this side of the ball as well during the Louisville contest. The hope is that linebacker Payton Wilson and corner Tyler Baker-Williams will return to action this week, though Doeren has been quiet on the subject so far.

Final Analysis

This is a game involving North Carolina, so the odds are that it will be close. NC State is not a team that puts great pressure on the passer, so Maye should have time to throw. But considering what happened last week against Georgia Tech, you never know. I believe that Maye and Downs have a bounce-back performance and that the Wolfpack injuries are too much for them to overcome. Carolina wins and gets a little bit of positive momentum back heading into the ACC Championship Game.

Prediction: North Carolina 31, NC State 27

Podcast: Week 13 Preview, Predictions, Picks Against the Spread, Breakdown of the Latest CFB Playoff Rankings, and Coaching News and Rumors

Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

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