What Wolfpack fans should watch for during NC State vs. UNC

Heading into the regular season finale against UNC, R. Cory Smith takes a look at what NC State fans should be focused on Friday afternoon

Rob Kinnan—X02835
NC State hopes to be celebrating tonight after its high-profile season opener against South Carolina in Charlotte (Rob Kinnan/USA Today)

Dave Doeren said it best during his press conference following NC State’s sixth loss of the season against Miami. The fourth-year head coach revealed this has been his “most challenging year” in Raleigh after posting a 5-6 mark to this point.Now he likely faces one of the most challenging opponents of the year in North Carolina, a team that comes in with a slim chance of winning the Coastal for a second straight year. The Tar Heels also have some extra motivation to prove themselves in the state after losing to rival Duke two weeks ago.NC State heads into the game with plenty to still play for as well with bowl eligibility still in reach. A victory over the Heels would give the Pack that crucial sixth win that it let slip away against Miami. Before the two programs tussle on Black Friday, here’s a look at what Wolfpack fans need to know.Game DetailsKickoff: 12 p.m.TV: ESPNLive Stream: WatchESPNLine: UNC (-10)Over/Under: 59Matchup to Watch: Matt Dayes vs. UNC rush defenseWhat happens when an unstoppable force runs into an easily movable object? That’s what we’ll all find out together on Friday when Matt Dayes lines up against Carolina’s front seven.While the Heels have been in the middle of the pack in the ACC in scoring defense (24.6 ppg) this season, they have fallen well short against opposing teams’ rushing attack. In fact, UNC currently ranks dead last in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game (233.4) and 13th with 25 rushing TDs allowed.The only team that ranks behind the Heels in total rushing touchdowns allowed? That’d be Syracuse, who surrendered three rushing scores to Dayes when they played two weeks ago.After becoming the first Pack player to pass the 1,000-yard mark in a single season last Saturday for the first time since T.A. McClendon in 2002, Dayes also passed McClendon in career TDs for third all-time. If he scores two touchdowns, he will reach the 40-touchdown threshold that hasn’t been touched since Stan Fritts in 1974.X-Factor: Bradley ChubbFollowing a slow start to the season, Bradley Chubb has been on fire to close out the year. The man who took over Mario Williams’ No. 9 jersey has lived up to the billing over the last eight games.Over that span, Chubb has tallied nine sacks and three forced fumbles, which rank fourth and fifth in the ACC, respectively. His 19 tackles for loss also ranks tied for first in the conference with Pitt’s Ejuan Price.UNC and NC State are tied with 16 sacks against on the season, ranking fourth in the conference. If the Wolfpack is going to get any pressure on Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the Carolina backfield, it will need Chubb to finish the regular season strong in Chapel Hill.PredictionWhile both Dayes and Chubb could put up ridiculous numbers, NC State’s offense will need Ryan Finley on his game to keep up with the Tar Heels. Unfortunately, Finley hasn’t exactly been himself over the last six games.Finley may have passed for more than 300 yards in three of those games, but has thrown for six touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. The lone win over Syracuse was one of only two games over that stretch where he’s completed more than 60 percent of his passes and the only one where he didn’t throw a pick.Meanwhile, Carolina hasn’t intercepted a single pass in the conference, but ranks second with 191.1 passing yards allowed in ACC play. If Finley can keep NC State in the positive in the turnover margin, the Pack might just have a chance.But with a defense that has struggled to finish games against the likes of Boston College, Florida State and Miami in recent weeks, even a perfect performance from the offense could fall short. The Heels frankly have too many offensive weapons for the Pack to keep pace Friday.Prediction: North Carolina 30, NC State 24