Thursday, November 23, 2023

ACC Clash, NCAA Playoffs Highlight Thanksgiving Weekend

Saturday night’s ACC Network game from Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh will be the 113th meeting between the NC State Wolfpack and the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels, recovering from a loss at Clemson, are preparing to face their rivals in the final game of the 2023 regular season. The Tar Heels’ offense, which averages 38.1 points per game, is the 12th highest nationally, and they’ve been successful on third downs, converting 49.7% of them. Quarterback Drake Maye and running back Omarion Hampton have been key players, with Maye throwing at least one touchdown pass in 10 of the 11 games this season and Hampton rushing for 100 yards in six consecutive games.

On the other side, the Wolfpack have been formidable opponents under the guidance of head coach Dave Doeren, the winningest coach in school history with 80 wins at NC State. They are one of only four teams in the Power 5 that have won eight or more games in each of the last four seasons. Their defense, which leads the ACC in total defense and scoring defense vs. league opponents, has been particularly impressive. In the last nine games, the Wolfpack defense has allowed just 88.5 rushing yards per game. During that span, three opponents have rushed for less than 100 yards. This game promises to be a thrilling end to the regular season, with both teams bringing their A-game to the field for bragging rights and a claim to best FBS team in the state.

NCAA Division II Playoffs (Round 2)

Lenoir-Rhyne vs Benedict: The Lenoir-Rhyne Bears are set to face the Benedict Tigers in the NCAA Division II playoffs this Saturday. The Bears have had a strong season, with an 11-1 record and an average of 40.17 points per game. Their rushing game is led by Dwayne McGee, who has gained 1213 yards with an average of 110.27 yards per game. In the passing game, Jalen Ferguson has completed 111 out of 154 attempts, throwing for 1468 yards and 16 touchdowns. The receiving corps is led by DeAree Rogers, who has made 43 catches for 621 yards and 6 touchdowns. On defense, Jon Ross Maye leads the team with 86 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. The Bears' defense has been particularly effective, with 35 sacks and 13 interceptions this season. The team's overall performance has been impressive, with an average of 443.7 yards per game. This game promises to be a thrilling encounter, with the Bears looking to leverage their strong performance this season against the formidable Tigers.

NCAA FCS Playoffs (Round )

Gardner-Webb vs. Mercer: This Saturday, the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, under the guidance of Head Coach Tre Lamb, a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, will face off against the Mercer Bears in the NCAA FCS playoffs. The Bulldogs have had a strong season, with back-to-back conference championships for the first time since 2002 and 2003, and an undefeated home record. Their offense, led by Lamb, has been aggressive, averaging 34.7 points per game in conference games and converting 24 of their 37 fourth-down attempts. On the defensive end, Ty French has set a new school record for career sacks with 30.5 and has been named a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award. Running back Narii Gaither has also made history, becoming just the second player in program history to rush for at least 3,000 yards. The Bulldogs have a record of 9-36 against FCS teams ranked inside the national polls, but they defeated #13/14 UT Martin earlier this season. Freshman quarterback Jaylen King, a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, has gone 5-1 in his first six career starts, including leading the Bulldogs to a 38-34 upset victory over #13/14 UT Martin. This game promises to be a thrilling encounter, with the Bulldogs looking to leverage their strong performance this season against the formidable Bears.

North Carolina Central vs. Richmond: This Saturday at 3pm, the NCAA FCS playoff game between North Carolina Central and Richmond is set to be a thrilling showdown. NCCU, with a record of 9-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play, has been a force to reckon with this season. They have outscored their opponents 403 to 296, averaging 36.64 points per game. Their rushing attack, led by Latrell Collier with 684 yards and 8 touchdowns, and Davius Richard with 579 yards and 15 touchdowns, has been particularly potent. Richard has also been impressive in the passing game, completing 60.98% of his passes for 1915 yards and 20 touchdowns. On the receiving end, Devin Smith and Joaquin Davis have been key contributors, with 505 and 404 receiving yards respectively. On the defensive side, Jayden Flaker leads the team with 74 total tackles and 4.5 sacks. With a rare appearance in the FCS playoffs, NCCU is poised to give a tough fight to the University of Richmond.

Honoring NCCFB Legend Armanti Edwards 

App State vs. Georgia Southern: App State will host Georgia Southern at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone in a game that will be broadcast on ESPNU Saturday afternoon at 3:30. App State leads the series 21-16-1 overall and 14-5-1 in Boone. Leading the Mountaineers’ offense is quarterback Joey Aguilar with 2,975 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, receiver Kaedin Robinson with 45 catches for 609 yards and 8 touchdowns, and running back Nate Noel with 787 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. Andrew Parker Jr. paces the App State defense with 98 tackles. The game will be a significant event, as it's not only the regular-season finale but also Senior Day, and the retirement of QB Armanti Edwards’ No. 14 jersey will take place at halftime. App State is also vying for a Sun Belt Championship Game berth. The team needs to beat Georgia Southern and have JMU win at Coastal Carolina to advance to face West champ Troy on Dec. 2.