NC State, Miami playing for 1st time since 2008
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP)
The last time North Carolina State and Miami met in football, gas was $1.82 a gallon and George W. Bush was still residing in the White House.
So a little bit has changed since.
It's a quirk of life in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Sometimes, conference rivals are more like strangers, which is the case when it comes to the Hurricanes (3-1, 2-0) and Wolfpack (3-1, 0-0) - whose game on Saturday in Miami will be the first meeting between the programs since November 29, 2008. Miami has played 26 other ACC games over that span, N.C. State has appeared in 24 league games since that date.
Just not against one another.
''It's my first time playing N.C. State,'' said Miami cornerback Brandon McGee - and he's a senior.
He's hardly alone.
Familiarity simply doesn't exist between the players in this game. There were 66 points scored and 830 yards gained the last time Miami and North Carolina State played, and none of the people responsible for those stats will be on the field at Sun Life Stadium this weekend.
''I don't even know if we've had anybody who's played them,'' Miami coach Al Golden said. ''But I know (N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien), so I have an idea of what we're going to face.''
According to the player participation charts the schools posted after their 2008 meeting, only two players who were on the field that day will likely play in Saturday's matchup. Miami receiver Davon Johnson recorded one tackle in that game after the Hurricanes threw an interception; N.C. State linebacker Sterling Lucas was involved in two tackles that day, both of them against former Miami running back Javarris James.
Everyone else? Gone.
Russell Wilson was the Wolfpack quarterback that day; he threw the hotly debated touchdown pass on the final play to give Seattle a win over Green Bay on Monday night. Miami used two quarterbacks in that game, Jacory Harris having now graduated and Robert Marve since transferring to Purdue. Nate Irving led everyone with 11 tackles in the 2008 game; he's now playing for the Denver Broncos.
''It seems kind of funny we only play them every four years, but I'm very excited,'' N.C. State safety Brandan Bishop said. ''When I came on my official visit, we played them right around Thanksgiving when I was a senior (in high school), so I'm definitely excited to get down there and play them.''
Bishop may be more excited than most players. For him, this is a long-awaited - really long-awaited - trip home. He grew up in Boca Raton, about 45 minutes north of Miami's campus.
''It's a very big deal for us,'' Bishop said. ''As a program, they might not be where they used to be, but they're still talented, and we want to get the ball rolling as far as ACC play goes. So we're excited.''
When the ACC split into two six-team divisions in 2005, interruptions in league ''rivalries'' were inevitable.
ACC teams have been playing eight league games - five against divisional opponents, one ''primary crossover'' opponent (it's North Carolina for N.C. State, and Florida State for Miami) and then two rotating opponents from the opposite division.
Miami has played N.C. State only three times since joining the ACC in 2004, winning just one.
''It's still a rivalry,'' Hurricanes running back Mike James said. ''We haven't played them in a while, but we know of them, we know they're a rival and we know we're going to have to do all we can to beat them.''
There will be a little more advance knowledge for the teams to deal with next year: Miami visits N.C. State in 2013. After that, at least the way the ACC schedules are currently drawn up, they won't play again until 2016.
And here's an oddity: Miami has more tape of its current players going up against next week's non-conference opponent - Notre Dame, which last saw the Hurricanes in the 2010 Sun Bowl - than it has this week against a league foe in the Wolfpack.
''We still prepare for every team the same way,'' McGee said. ''It's going to be a big game.''
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AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, N.C. contributed to this story.