After both NC State and North Carolina narrowly escaped Week 1 scares against East Carolina and Appalachian State, respectively, there was a rare singularity of purpose between the bitter rivals. For each program, Week 2 needed to be better.

For NC State, which entered the season with immense expectations and College Football Playoff dreams, that meant finding itself again on offense and extending its home winning streak to 11 games in style against overmatched Football Championship Subdivision foe Charleston Southern.

For the North Carolina Tar Heels, whose roster is one of the 16 most talented in the country, per the 247 2022 Talent Composite, Week 2 needed to be about finding a way to play solid defense again and finishing a game, which the Tar Heels couldn’t do Sept. 3, when they surrendered a staggering 40 points to Appalachian State during the 4th quarter in Boone, N.C. Gene Chizik, the national championship coach with a brilliant defensive pedigree, left a cozy studio job at ESPN to fix his friend Mack Brown’s defense. That project needed to make progress Saturday at Georgia State.

If you were a North Carolina fan Saturday watching the Wolfpack, you saw a determined rival make progress. While no one will confuse Charleston Southern with East Carolina, you can only play the team in front of you, and the Wolfpack’s 55-3 rout was convincing and comprehensive.

Devin Leary, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year who struggled during the Wolfpack’s 21-20 win Sept. 3 in Greenville, N.C., was back to his Heisman candidate self. Leary played only a half, but that was enough to throw for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns and use his legs to account for 2 more scores. No run demonstrated Leary’s determination to put last weekend behind him more than this 1st-quarter run, which gave NC State a 10-0 lead and opened the floodgates in Raleigh.

Would a Tar Heels fan viewing this game see warts? Sure. The Woflpack managed to average just 5.2 yards per carry against a small, FCS front, only a week after East Carolina limited NC State to just 4.2 per rush on the ground. If you want to beat NC State, you have to make the Wolfpack one-dimensional, and NC State hasn’t shown that will be terribly difficult in either of its September victories.

On the flip side, the NC State defense continues to look formidable. Corner Shyheim Battle is a budding star, anchoring what, through 2 games, appears to be one of the nation’s best secondaries. The Wolfpack also was much better up front, imposing its will on the game and holding Charleston Southern to just 36 yards rushing. NC State isn’t going to hold too many future opponents to just 9 first downs, but it is going to be the type of team that will hold most everyone it plays inside the 20s, and in so doing, give Leary and the offense a chance to win the game.

It will get harder for NC State next Saturday night, when Texas Tech and the Air Raid visit Carter-Finley Stadium. But for a team with big dreams, life was a little better back at home in the big city Saturday afternoon.

If you were a NC State fan doing ABC duty Saturday and watching the Tar Heels, you’re probably beginning to wonder if Rameses doubles as a cat and has 9 lives. How UNC escaped on the road again, on a day it was outplayed for most the afternoon, perhaps is a sign of a charmed football team.

On the other hand, you might think it’s a Tar Heels team whose luck soon will run out.

There’s no question Carolina’s decision to schedule 2 road games against Sun Belt foes to open the year was a curious one. As Saturday Road wrote last Monday, there’s little value in UNC, or any Power 5 program, playing road games against Group of 5 teams that hurt you terribly if you lose and help you nominally if, as expected, you win. These games are almost all risk and little reward, and that’s true regardless of what “coach speak” is offered about the value of your team being battle-tested in tough environments or uncomfortable situations. Was North Carolina pushed and tested in these 2 games, won by a combined 9 points? Absolutely. Is any of that valuable to UNC if it loses any of them? Not really. You play to win.

Still, even the most strident Carolina hater would have to admit there were positives to be taken from Carolina’s win Saturday.

For one, after North Carolina fell behind 28-21 late in the 3rd quarter, the Tar Heels defense bucked up and got the job done. North Carolina pitched a shutout during the 4th quarter, and the sideline bickering and infighting captured by ESPNU’s cameras came to a needed, screeching halt. No one in Chapel Hill is going to be thrilled with surrendering 28 points and 420 yards to Georgia State, but the 4th quarter, when the Tar Heels limited the Panthers to just 3 first downs and forced 4 punts? That was the defense coach Mack Brown has been waiting for in Chapel Hill. The fact the last stop came after a potentially devastating turnover? Even better.

The Tar Heels also appear to have found a star in the run game in Omarion Hampton, the freshman from Clayton who ran for 110 yards and 7 per carry, including the tying house call during the 3rd quarter.

If North Carolina can run the ball consistently, it will be lethal on offense, because Drake Maye, it turns out, is the latest star-in-the-making for UNC at quarterback.

A bye week awaits the Tar Heels, giving Chizik another week to work on his defensive reclamation project before a top-10 Notre Dame team rolls into Chapel Hill on Sept. 24 for the latest North Carolina home opener in more than a decade. But North Carolina, for all its early-season struggles, will arrive to that game undefeated. Just like its bitter rival in Raleigh.

Two different Saturdays, but 2 rival programs that each enter mid-September unbeaten.