Records truly meaningless in UNC-State rivalry Saturday
Posted November 1, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Throw the records out when NC State and UNC play this weekend. That isn’t so much a cliché as it is a suggestion.
Really, just throw the records out.
The Tar Heels and Wolfpack, at 2-5 and 3-4, respectively, don’t have much to hang their helmets on if that’s what determines the excitement surrounding the rivalry game. And it’s hard to blame those who’ve cracked jokes at both teams’ expense this week when what is annually the de facto “biggest football game in the state” doesn’t even involve a winning squad.
The jokes are easy: UNC head coach Larry Fedora needed advice for the game, so he went to see a tailor. NC State head coach Dave Doeren isn’t even bringing his punters; it’s just too risky.
But in the end, jokes are talk - and talk is still, well, talk. While the comedians claim the game is less nationally relevant than ever, they forget how irrelevant that statement is.
This is the biggest game in North Carolina football every year. Period.
There’s a reason why it gets so much attention from the local media and fans, even if it’s negative -- and a 6-2 Duke team that’s .500 in their last 24 games isn’t going to change that. UNC and NC State are the two biggest schools in the state, with the two biggest fan bases, with the two biggest football programs by any measure. Mediocre-to-disappointing seasons by each team isn’t going to change that either.
The contest is sold out through NC State’s box office, and a few remaining online tickets are going for a minimum of $150 a pop. If the game is irrelevant, no one told either fan base - or the free market.
Sure, State-UNC might have a better TV time slot if either team was ranked (maybe), but that’s about the only difference.
PNC Arena couldn’t even sell out last year when UNC’s basketball team came to Raleigh to face a top-20 Wolfpack squad, in front of a national primetime audience (a generous 19,577 was listed on a capacity 19,772). Technically, that matchup was “relevant.” Was that a better game than the 43-35 Punt-To-Gio thriller in Chapel Hill last year? Or T.A. McLendon’s fumble on the goal line in 2004 (that game wasn’t even televised statewide!)? Just because a few more John Does on ESPN were watching?
In an interview with Inside Carolina this week, former UNC left tackle Brian Chacos reminisced over his last bout against the Wolfpack (2005, UNC’s last win in Carter-Finley), and more specifically, his individual bout with future first round draft pick Manny Lawson.
“Bout” wasn’t used casually either — Lawson and Chacos were flagged on consecutive plays for slugging each other in the face during the game. Chacos’ point was clear: this is “the game” for both teams year-in and year-out.
UNC and State will each play ECU and Duke this year, and likely, the Blue Devils and Pirates will each have more wins than the Wolfpack and Tar Heels entering the game. But the bigger game is obvious, (just check StubHub.com, the numbers don’t lie), and it’s this weekend in Carter-Finley Stadium.
Ironically, the only games that are going have their relevance questioned are already relevant. It’s like the media asking Roy Williams whether PJ Hairston will be a distraction for UNC basketball this year — they’ve already answered their own question by asking it.
State and UNC aren’t having good seasons. Fans know this. Odds are, both will end up with losing campaigns. But, it’s still a rivalry. And like every rivalry game ever played, the records don’t really matter.