The final week of the college football regular season is upon us, and on the schedule are traditional matchups with names such as the Iron Bowl, Bedlam, The Big Game and Clean, Old Fashioned Hate.
And then there’s North Carolina vs. NC State.
It’s a rivalry every bit as intense and meaningful to those involved as any of those others — Alabama-Auburn, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Cal-Stanford and Georgia Tech-Georgia. It just doesn’t have a catchy title or a distinctive trophy to be passed back and forth to the winner each year.
That’s something Tar Heels coach Mack Brown says he’d like to see change.
“They’d have to talk to Boo Corrigan and Dave (Doeren) about it, but I think it would be great,” Brown said, referring to NC State’s athletic director and football coach. “This is a really important game for both teams, and it will be a game that a lot of people will watch Friday night.
“It reminds me a whole lot of Texas and Texas A&M. That’s the type of energy that both fan bases have, and the importance of winning this game for both schools.”
This year’s game, which could also have ACC championship implications beyond the usual bragging rights, will be played at 7 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium with television coverage on ESPN.
Both UNC and State already have games in which a traveling trophy is involved.
The Tar Heels and Duke play one another for the Victory Bell each year. It’s a tradition that began in 1948 by cheerleaders from the neighboring schools. But while their basketball rivalry remains one of the best — if not the best — in all sports, the competition on the football field has fallen off considerably in both significance and competitiveness.
An indication of that came when the ACC changed its schedule to have UNC play the Wolfpack, rather than the Blue Devils, on the final week of the season.
“I grew up here with Duke being the last game, so it’s very different for me,” Brown said. “I came back and everything is kind of different now.”
Interest in State’s annual meeting with Clemson — known as The Textile Bowl since 1971 as a tribute to the two of the country’s top textile schools and the similarities in their mission — has also waned in recent years, although the trophy remains up for grabs.
Like his counterpart at UNC, State’s Doeren said he’s all for establishing a trophy for their annual game.
“Those trophy games are very meaningful,” he said. “I’ve been a part of those at most of the schools I’ve coached at. They mean a lot. We have the one trophy here now from our game with Clemson. It sits in our lobby. I think it’s a great thing for those games to have.”