The Demon Deacons have their highest AP Top 25 ranking and their best start in program history as they head for an instate matchup with the Tar Heels. For the Demon Deacons, this is more about maintaining momentum and putting themselves in national conversations for the College Football Playoff. And the Tar Heels are trying to move toward bowl eligibility in a frustrating season. This isn’t a league matchup despite coming between two ACC teams. The schools agreed to a home-and-home nonconference series back in 2015 because they didn’t play each other as often amid the expanded ACC’s scheduling rotation.
UNC’s defense vs. Wake Forest’s offense. The Tar Heels’ defense hasn’t shown much progress, if any, this year. Last weekend’s loss at No. 8 Notre Dame came with the offense putting up 34 points and moving the ball effectively, only to see the defense fail to hold off the Fighting Irish in nearly every critical sequence. The challenge gets tougher against the Demon Deacons, ranked No. 5 in the Bowl Subdivision in scoring (43.4 points per game) and No. 9 in total offense (495.4 yards).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wake Forest: QB Sam Hartman. The fourth-year sophomore keeps finding the end zone of late. He threw for five touchdowns and ran for one in a 70-56 win against Army, then threw for three and ran for two more in last weekend’s 45-7 win against Duke.
UNC: QB Sam Howell. The preseason hype as a Heisman Trophy candidate has passed, but Howell is still putting up quality numbers. The junior is tied for 13th in passing TDs (19) and 16th nationally in passing yardage (274.0).
FACTS & FIGURES
The first of the two nonconference meetings in this series came in 2019, won by Wake Forest. The teams originally weren’t scheduled to meet again in league play until 2022, though they played last year in a league game when the ACC shuffled its schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. … The Tar Heels rallied from 21 down in the third quarter of last year’s meeting to win, with Howell throwing for 550 yards and six touchdowns. … Wake Forest receiver A.T. Perry and UNC receiver Josh Downs are tied for seventh in FBS with eight touchdown catches this year.