by Mike Potter
UNC (1-2) will try to bounce back from two straight losses as the Tar Heels host East Carolina (2-1) at Kenan Stadium in a 3:30 p.m. contest to be shown on ESPNU.
Both of the other Triangle teams will be solid favorites at home as they attempt to stay headed in the right direction. Duke (2-1) will take on Memphis (0-3) in the Blue Devils’ 6 p.m. homecoming game at Wallace Wade Stadium, while N.C. State (2-1) will take on resurgent FCS power The Citadel (3-0) at the same time at Carter-Finley Stadium.
N.C. Central (1-2) will be on the road, taking on Savannah State (0-2) at 7 p.m. in the MEAC opener for both at Wright Stadium.
UNC vs. ECU
UNC is coming off a couple of heartbreakers in which comebacks fell short, as the Tar Heels dropped a 39-34 decision at No. 19 Louisville seven days ago and 28-27 at Wake Forest a week earlier. ECU beat Southern Mississippi — coincidentally where Tar Heel mentor Larry Fedora coached before coming to Chapel Hill — 24-14 a week ago.
Following a 35-20 win in Greenville last year UNC leads the series 11-2-1. The Tar Heels are listed as 17-point favorites over the Pirates.
“It’s an in-state (opponent) and a very important game for a lot of reasons,” Fedora said of the ECU contest. “One,
because it's the next opportunity for us. You got a bad taste in your mouth. No one likes the way the last one ended. The only way you can change that is to go out and play on Saturday and play the way you're supposed to play the game.”
UNC’s Bryn Renner has completed 63 of 101 passes for 870 yards and nine TDs with three interceptions. A.J. Blue has rushed for 188 yards and three TDs on 35 carries, while Romar Morris has six catches for 179 yards and two TDs.
Rio Johnson has completed 46 of 72 passes for 435 yards and two TDs with four interceptions for ECU. Justin Hardy has caught 19 passes for 241 yards and three TDs.
Duke vs. Memphis
Duke is listed as a 23½-point favorite over Memphis, which has got to be the biggest pregame margin over an FBS opponent in the David Cutcliffe era.
It’s the first meeting with the Tigers for Duke, which is coming off a 54-17 romp over NCCU last week. Memphis’ most recent game was a 48-30 loss to visiting Middle Tennessee.
“We have a Memphis team that's hungry, like we are,” Cutcliffe said. “They're certainly hungry to win. They have talent. They’re a team that worries me on the perimeter offensively, and a team that's got a lot of athletes defensively that line up in a lot of different places, and they're playing a lot of different people. It’s a very well-coached Memphis team.”
Duke’s Sean Renfree has completed 73 of 104 passes for 764 yards and five TDs with three interceptions. Jamison Crowder leads Blue Devils receivers with 23 catches for 298 yards and two TDs, while Conner Vernon has caught 21 for 280 and one TD.
Jacob Karam has completed 52 of 89 passes for 636 yards with five TDs and an interception for Memphis. Jerrell Rhodes has 224 yards and two TDs on 52 carries, while Marcus Rucker has 15 catches for 229 yards and three TDs.
N.C. State vs. The Citadel
State looks like the easy favorite at home for the second straight week after a 31-7 romp over South Alabama, but The Citadel may have its best team in a couple of generations. The Bulldogs routed Appalachian State 52-28 on the road last week.
State leads the series 3-0, but they haven’t faced off in 29 years. The Dunkel Index has the Wolfpack favored by 14.
“They've started off great this year,” State coach Tom O’Brien said of the Bulldogs. “They've beaten two top 10 teams in their (FCS) division, and they’re a triple-option team that certainly presents a lot of problems to any defense when you have to get ready for it in one week. Their offense is centered around (Ben) Dupree, their quarterback, who makes the thing go. He's a very quick, fast guy that does a great job with the option. It'll be a big challenge for our defense.”
Mike Glennon has completed 66 of 110 passes for 749 yards and five TDs with four interceptions for the Wolfpack. Tony Creecy has 130 yards and a pair of TDs on 31 carries, while Quintin Payton has 12 catches for 238 yards and a TD.
Dupree has completed three of eight passes for 82 yards and a TD for the Bulldogs while carrying 54 times for 349 yards and four TDs. Darien Robinson has 29 carries for 241 yards and two TDs.
NCCU at Savannah State
Savannah State has made more money than almost anyone in college football this season, collecting a total of $860,000 in a pair of “rent-a-beatings” at Oklahoma State (84-0) and Florida State (55-0 in a game rained out in the third quarter.) The Tigers have had a week off to prepare for the Eagles.
NCCU has lost to the Tigers in their last two meetings, SSU’s only wins in a 26-game span. Dunkel has NCCU, which leads the series 4-2-1, as a seven-point favorite.
“We definitely improved against Duke,” Eagle coach Henry Frazier said. “They got a couple of big plays on us that made the score look a little wide. We’re a little banged up, though. Savannah State’s quarterback (Antonio Bostick) is a dual-threat guy who got a 99-yarder on us last year. When you watch the film from this year you’re not getting anything. I think they took the approach in those first two games they were going to be very vanilla and prepare for North Carolina Central.”
Jordan Reid has completed 22 of 40 passes for 291 yards and a TD with four interceptions for NCCU. Arthur Goforth has gained 147 yards with a TD on 24 carries, while Marvin Poole has caught 10 passes for 133 yards.
Bostick has completed 14 of 40 passes for 90 yards with two interceptions for the Tigers, while Skelton Barnes has carried 20 times for 48 yards.