One of the core attractions to the NC State/UNC football rivalry is the emotion that comes from the fans that can turn the most black and white of facts into an argument with nuance and heated debate. The following email interview with a State fan was fully intended to get to that emotion while also previewing the actual football game.
Ben: Which program is in better shape right now. NC State or UNC?
State Fan: It depends on what we want to call “shape”. If it’s get to bowls year in/year out, I’d say both are even. If it’s which program is in better shape to be better for the near future longer, I would go with State with a big deal placed on this coming game. If we are talking about winning divisions/ability to play for championships then UNC is in slightly better shape, given where FSU and Clemson are right now in the Atlantic pecking order.
I feel like all schools in the state of NC need to put together solid back to back to back 8ish win seasons to start gaining traction. Even more importantly is the winner of the State/UNC game.
Sure UNC is about to face Clemson in the ACC Championship game. If UNC loses to State and then to Clemson, while State has a UNC win under their belt, it would go great as far as perception for State in the high school crootin’ world in NC. They put together a solid class last year and this win would go a long way to helping put together another solid class.
Outside of this specific game, I believe State still is ahead in fan/administration support, with most of that being still some NCAA uncertainty at UNC and fact of trying to get over the basketball shadow. Not sure if that will change with one game, but a UNC win on Saturday would help a number of things.
Ben: From that, it seems like State has a lot to gain, but not much to lose on Saturday. You mentioned recruiting and perception, how difficult is it that NC State is now the only one of the Big Four without a championship game appearance? Was it a big hit to NC State for UNC to win the Coastal this year? Would it be an even bigger hit with a UNC win against State?
State Fan: I don’t think State fans are necessarily mad about not being in the championship game yet. A lot of fans look at the 2010 season as the lost season, given they controlled their destiny before they forgot that Torrey Smith was good at catching footballs. There may be a touch of jealousy having not been to championship game yet, especially in last 5 years or so. I think they’ve taken some solace though in Duke getting crushed by Florida State and a possible same scenario taking place in a few weeks when UNC meets Clemson.
Like I said in earlier answer, I feel like in this state especially it’s important to put together solid “Wow-like” seasons. UNC is doing that so I’m pretty sure it doesn’t help that they won the Coastal. I still think their story will be told though based on the State/UNC game and how they perform versus Clemson.
Do Bears poop in the woods? Yes absolutely, If State lost to UNC it would be a pretty damaging hit. First it would be another loss for Doeren vs the Coastal. It would also be another game where State had lost where they are facing a team with what I would consider a very similar talent pool. This year especially State has taken care of business against lesser opponents but against teams of likewise or more talent they haven’t won. I think it would be a huge step in a great direction for State with a win and a big blow if they were to lose.
Ben: If State fans aren’t mad about not having won a division, then why so much focus on comparing the two divisions? Seems like a way to feel better about being in the shadow of the success across town over the past three years. Is that not the motivation in that argument?
State Fan: I think I vaguely answered that. Duke and now UNC have won Coastal championships in last 3 years. Duke got routed and it could shape up the same fate for UNC. The Atlantic Division in fact has had the last 5 ACC Championship winners. On a very narrow scope, that would tend one to believe that the better of the Atlantic has been ahead of the better of the Coastal in last 5 seasons. So when comparing the divisions, I think State sees themselves on par with UNC and Duke as far as their programs historically have been. Thus they believe that if they were in UNC’s shoes they also “MAY” be able to compete for a division championship, and likewise if you put UNC in NC State’s shoes, many would tend to think they also would have gone without a division championship.
The main argument would be that UNC gets to play 6 coastal games a year against mean similar teams in terms of talent, etc. The coastal has more depth year in and year out, and there are very rarely any easy wins. The Atlantic has 2-3 easy wins a year but also combined with over the last 5 years 2 top 10 teams. Many state fans would rather take their chances in 6 50-50 division games a year than having 2-3 easier games but also 2 very difficult games.
So to answer your question, I think State just looks at their program as being just as good as Duke and UNCs, but their division over the last half decade has been one that is very top heavy and included schools that rarely have lost to anyone.
Ben: Since we have an opportunity to get away from hypothetical comparisons this Saturday, what’s happened this season that took us from State being the popular dark horse pick with an elite quarterback to UNC being the actual divisional champion with an actual elite quarterback? Was this a role reversal in the sense that State was overrated and UNC was underrated?
I think State has fallen victim to what happens to many teams. Finish previous year playing well, return a solid core, thus you should win more games…
I think many folks can look back and know that the end of the 2014 year was solid, but they didn’t beat very good teams. It was probably good for the program for State that they were beating some teams they were supposed to beat.
Thus going into 2015, you had a team with a ton of confidence, returning QB, good recruiting class, etc.
The reality was that:
A. RB attrition due to suspensions, injuries have hurt the team. Teams have been able to load up the box to shut down the run and force State’s passing game to win games. The WR group was one group that was suspect going into the year and for most part has been so this year, thus the poor numbers from Brissett.
B. Other teams get better too, including a Clemson that was supposed to have a down season.
I do think State ended up being a tad overhyped going into this year. They have basically been the epitome of average. They’ve beat teams they shouldn’t, while losing to all the teams that are = or better than them. They have a shot to turn that around on Saturday.
For UNC, I don’t think anyone thought the defense would get so remarkably better. Many often believed they just needed a defense that may not stop everyone, but would limit touchdowns. That has been what has happened this year, thus allowing their offense to just run teams off the field.
Ben: Okay so NC State wins on Saturday. Tell me how it happens.
State Fan: When State wins on Saturday it will be:
A. Defensive line dominating and getting to Williams. State’s secondary could get torched if he has all day to throw.
B. State runs the dang ball.
C. Jacoby plays like 2014 FSU Game First Half Jacoby
D. Swofford leaves the Kerliner Refs at home