NC College Football Previews: Conference matchups for NC State, UNC; Pirates eye upset

NC State quarterback Ryan Finley and the Wolfpack host Syracuse on Saturday. (Melina Vastola / USA TODAY Sports)

Syracuse at NC State
Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh  |  Saturday, 12:20 p.m.  |  ACC Network

Preview: The Pack hope to build off of a win at Florida State, while the Orange hope to snap a three-game losing streak against NC State.

Players to watch: Syracuse linebacker Parris Bennett had 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, a safety, a pass breakup and a quarterback hit in last week’s 35-26 loss at LSU. Jakobi Meyers gives the Pack another receiving threat after a 112-yard day against the Seminoles that included a 71-yard touchdown catch.

Fast fact: This will be the first time NC State plays Syracuse while the Wolfpack are riding a winning streak since 1978. The Pack has lost the game before the matchup with the Orange the last six times. This is the fifth straight time Syracuse has lost the week before it faced State. The Orange last came into the game off a win in 1998.

What to expect: As nervous State fans know, this is exactly the type of game the Wolfpack lose, to an underdog opponent after a program-defining win. A win can help expel NC State Stuff for good.

— Shawn Krest

UNC at Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta  |  Saturday, noon  |  ESPN2

Preview: The injury-riddled Tar Heels enter the game at 1-3 (0-1 ACC), but have won three straight against the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-0).

Players to watch: Georgia Tech RB KirVonte Benson (196) and QB TaQuon Marshall (112) combined to rush for 308 yards and score four touchdowns in Tech’s win against Pitt last week. Marshall and Benson rank second and third in the ACC in rushing. UNC DB M.J. Stewart had a sack, three pass breakups and a quarterback hurry during last week’s loss to Duke.

Fast fact: The Tar Heels have outscored their opponents 135-132 this season and have more points than their opponents in each of the first three quarters, but have been outscored 54-20 during the final period of their four games.

What to expect: Despite recent success against Tech’s triple option attack, this is not a favorable matchup for UNC, which ranks 12th in the ACC in rushing defense. The Yellow Jackets average 393.7 yards per game on the ground.

— Brett Friedlander

South Florida at ECU
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville  |  Saturday, noon, CBS SN

Preview: The Pirates (1-3, 1-0 AAC) earned their first win of the season and first on the road under coach Scottie Montgomery on Sunday at UConn. Eighteenth-ranked USF is off to a flying start for coach Charlie Strong at 4-0 (1-0), including a 43-7 dismantling of Temple last week.

Players to watch: Duke transfer Thomas Sirk earned AAC Player of the Week honors after throwing for 426 yards and three touchdowns against UConn. USF QB Quinton Flowers, the reigning AAC Player of the Year, has thrown for eight touchdowns and run for four this season.

Fast fact: ECU and UConn both gained the same number of yards Sunday. The 596 yards were the fewest allowed by the Pirates this season, but they still rank last nationally in total defense at 624.8 yards per game.

What to expect: The Pirates will have their hands full against a USF team that ranks 13th nationally in total defense, 21st nationally in scoring offense and has already forced 14 turnovers.

— Brett Friedlander