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Friday, November 21, 2008

Q&A with "Tar Heel Fan"

I can be a superstitious sort at times.

The previous two weeks I tried to track down bloggers from both the Duke and Wake Forest fanbases and came up empty. Wouldn't you know we went on to win both of those games?

So it's with some measure of trepidation that I start back up the Q&A series heading into the biggest game of the season so far against the Tar Heels. Why buck a good trend, right?

But where the Duke and Wake fanbases offer a sparse blogging landscape, Tar Heel nation is well represented on the Blogging Interwebs. You can't swing a dead internet cat without hitting one. And I think I've lined up the cream of the crop of the Tar Heel bloggers, "Tar Heel Fan." Not only does he turn an objective eye toward both Tar Heel and Wolfpack athletics, he knows on which side of the Triangle lies the state's best BBQ:


Let's address the quarterback issue right off the bat: After Sexton's performance Saturday against Maryland, is there any chance he starts the game against State? If so, how short of a leash will he be given? If Yates starts, do you anticipate Sexton seeing any playing time? Are you concerned at all with Yates being "rusty" if he plays?
At this point only Butch Davis knows. I thought Sexton should have been pulled in the 2nd half versus Maryland just to see if maybe Yates could produced a scoring drive. Since it ended up being 17-15 all it would have taken was one good TD drive to salt the game way. Anyway, I think Yates throws the ball better in terms of velocity and accuracy downfield. Rust could be an issue but honestly it is going to be an issue any time he plays again so I think you have to factor it in and hope it does not affect the outcome of the game. I think it is possible he uses both QBs depending on what State does. Sexton is a tad more mobile than Yates but really the Pack should be wary of the trick play which has one of the backs throwing the ball. Those guys are actually fairly decent at it.

If you were in coach Withers' shoes trying to gameplan Russell Wilson, how would you attack him?
One upside for UNC is they have seen a mobile QB at least twice before against the two Techs. The difference here is Russell Wilson is actually a threat to throw the ball and do so without making mistakes. UNC's defense this season has been an oddity in they give up huge yards but the oppposing team does not score many points. Some of that is the 18 INTs and the other part of it is UNC does stiffen up when teams get to their 30 or so. As for Wilson, the Heels do not pressure the QB in the pocket which could give Wilson all day to throw depending on how well the Pack O-line plays. On the flip side, the Tar Heel linebackers and corners do a fairly decent job of containment it would seem but as I said they appear to do a better job at it when teams approach their red zone.

What's the pulse of the Tar Heel fans regarding this game, in terms of confidence going in? Do most feel it will be a cakewalk? An upset by the Pack? Somewhere in between?
I don't think fans feel it will be a cakewalk. I am looking at it to be a fairly even game in which UNC opens up a wider lead late and maybe wins by two scores. Call it 10-14 points. The line is 12.5 I think and that feels about right to me. Because it is rival game and NCSU has played well enough you can really assume nothing. Not to use a tired cliched but anything could happen given the history between the two programs on the field.

How do you stop Hakeem Nicks?
I think the best way to stop Nicks is to take away the 10-15 yard receptions. UNC's bread and butter in the passing game has been getting the ball to Nicks and previously Tate in space and allowing those guys to pick up a ton of yards after the catch. On occassion they would go for the long bomb just to stretch the defense and it seemed like for awhile UNC could get at least one long TD per game. Now that threat is diminished since Tate went out with a knee injury. That has probably been the biggest key to stopping Nicks the fact there is no viable threat at the other WR position and we are still waiting for Greg Little to show up and do something positive.

Carolina is one of the best teams in the country intercepting the ball (18 for the year, tied for second overall), and Wilson has passed 175 straight times without a pick. Which gives way: the immovable object or the irresistible force?
175 in a row? I would think he is due to throw one then. Of course the Heels could not break Chris Turner's streak last week which is also over 100 passes without an INT. My suspiscion is UNC gets one, maybe even two picks. They did not have any last week and it is hard to imagine them going another game without getting some turnovers from the secondary. The tough part here is Wilson does make good decisions something that has not been seen in a Wolfpack QB since Philip Rivers.

What's your prediction for the game?
UNC 34 NCSU 20

What are your thoughts on naming this game every year and having a trophy of some sorts to vie for?
Sounds like a good idea. This is a rivalry even though some UNC fans want to say otherwise. At least in football the hate flows pretty evenly. I liked the suggestion it be tied to BBQ in some way though you could get into playing for some kind of state symbol I supposed since these are the two biggest schools in the UNC system and represent the state in general as well as most of the population in NC pulls for one of these two teams.

Otherwise we could put all the in-state commits for the current recruiting year into a pool and the winner takes all. I wonder if the NCAA would be okay with that?

Bonus question I ask all my Q&A participants: Between Eastern NC style BBQ and Lexington Style BBQ which do you prefer, and why? Have you ever eaten at Allen and Sons'? How would you rate the 'cue?
When Lucifer was thrown out of heaven along with 1/3 of the angelic hosts, Lexington style BBQ went with him. I mean really, who wants chopped pork with no flavor unless you drown it in some sauce? Seems kinda a weak to me. Eastern NC BBQ is superior in every way because it can stand on it's own and the vinegar base sauce gives it some serious kick. Never eaten at Allen and Sons, I was raised on three BBQ places in Johnston County: Smithfield's, White Swan and Holt Lake.

There you go! That's what I'm talking about! I was starting to lose faith in the blogosphere in the area with respect to the barbecue this fine state produces.

So Tar Heel Fan has the Heels winning by 14. It can certainly happen, given the Heels are playing at home where they've been winning all year long (except for the VT game). I disagree with his prediction on the outcome because I think the Pack will keep it close, win or lose, but I'll certainly share his assessment that in this rivalry game, anything can--and often does--happen.

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