You could call it a tepid rivalry week, but then it was bound to feel a little different, if not totally inconsequential, given the entirety of everything else that is going on in this country. The week is a little off, too, because of how strange it is that a game like this one is going to be played in front of like 3,000 people.
Neither the players nor the coaches have been interested in spicing things up with some pointed remarks to the media—I suppose we can’t expect a “that’s a triple play” sort of rant every year, alas.
NC State offensive lineman Joe Sculthorpe and defensive tackle Alim McNeill spoke to the media today about the upcoming matchup. Sculthorpe isn’t trying to make this game anything more than it is:
I know it’s a rivalry, and it’s a great game. The game’s been going around forever, and I don’t want to belittle that by any means, but our preparation is the same regardless of who we’re playing. We’re looking at them just the way we look at everyone else on our schedule. We respect them as players. They’re college football players, just like us. I guarantee they’re doing the same thing as us. They respect us as much as we respect them. Whoever has the most preparation and the best practice throughout the week is going to win on Saturday.
And among other things, McNeill was asked about the Tar Heels’ talented offense:
It’s a very good offense. A high-energy offense. They’re gonna come at you. They’re gonna try to hit you in the mouth. They are gonna run the ball; they’ve got two great running backs. Both look like Sunday guys, to be honest. They have a big O-line, big receivers. We’re going to be ready to play. We’re gonna come to play because we have athletes and talent on our defense too, that will be able to match up well. They are a very good offense, though.
UNC’s running back duo has been prolific, and they’ll be the biggest test for State’s run defense since the Virginia Tech game. But State’s defense has gotten better since that trip to Blacksburg, and those guys are playing with confidence right now. It’s good that they believe they can step up and play great against UNC, because they’re going to have to.