Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.
As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: NC State Wolfpack
Opponent: North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Year: Loss, 43-35 at North Carolina
This Year: November 2 vs. North Carolina
After coming back from 18 points down, NC State looked like it was going to hold on for a huge victory over cross-state rival North Carolina. Then they looked like they’d be headed to overtime. And suddenly, following a backbreaking Giovani Bernard punt return for a touchdown with just 13 seconds left, the Wolfpack left the field defeated. This last-minute, come-from-behind victory is always hard to watch when you’re on the receiving end, but that goes double for the most important game on your team’s calendar. For the most part, the annual UNC date is for the Pack, so comeback or not, you can bet they’d be out for revenge again this season just the same.
At the onset of last year’s contest, it really did have all the makings of a blowout in favor of UNC. Scoring 25 points in 15 minutes, the Heels were living up to the billing of its high-powered offense. Then the Pack did the same in the second, and the seesaw began. On the game, the teams would combine for over 1,100 yards of offense, while also committing six turnovers. The largest issue for NC State, though, was the running game. Struggling to run out the clock at the end, a competent ground attack would’ve been able to pick up the necessary first down to kill the clock before Bernard’s return. Instead, they continued the futile effort that netted them just 67 yards on the afternoon, the Pack had to punt, and you know what happened next.
This year, the key to this one is likely to be very similar. UNC’s passing attack is just as explosive (if not more so) than last year’s, but NC State’s is likely to take a small step back. That means more pressure on the ground game — emphasizing ball control and time of possession — if the Wolfpack hope to pull out a victory. The Tar Heels’ offense thrives on the simple math of more plays equaling more points. Running the ball well and taking up clock diminishes the effectiveness of that strategy. But does State have the personnel to pull it off? Shadrach Thornton and Tony Creecy both return, yet still remain largely unproven over the long haul. Like much of the rest of NC State’s season though, they’ll be relied upon heavily if this team’s going to get back to the postseason while transitioning to Dave Doeren’s new system.