The pick this week for who will transform tomorrow?
North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard.
The reason is simple. For the Tar Heels to have any shot at breaking their five-game losing streak to their rivals down the road, they are going to need a huge night from Bernard. Since his return from a knee injury, he has been simply outstanding.
Over the last three weeks against Virginia Tech (262), Miami (177) and Duke (143), Bernard is averaging 194 yards per game. Bernard leads the ACC and ranks fifth in the nation with 132.5 yards rushing per game. Despite playing in just six games, Bernard ranks second in the ACC with 12 touchdowns and is third in the nation with 12 points per game.
North Carolina has found ways to use him everywhere on the field, not just running the football. He is first in the ACC and fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (199). And you don't have to tell NC State coach Tom O'Brien about what his first priority is on Saturday.
"Well, I think if you're going to have any chance against North Carolina, he's the No. 1 guy," O'Brien said. "As you said, the thing where they use him, and he's really explosive, is in the return game. That's been a concern, certainly been a concern for us the last three weeks, playing Miami, Florida State, then playing [Stefon] Diggs up at Maryland. So we've gotten a lot of good practice. Hopefully it will pay dividends for us.
"They've moved him around. They can hand him the ball, they can throw him the ball. Anytime you're multi-dimensional, that causes problems for the defense. The defense wants you to be one-dimensional, the best should force you to be that way. Any time you have someone as talented as him, it puts great stress on the defense."