by Mike Potter
UNC, despite all its off-the-field troubles, guaranteed itself a winning season (7-4, 4-3 ACC) to start the Larry Fedora era on the heels of Thursday night’s resounding 37-13 win at Virginia.
The other two local ACC teams are both bowl-bound, while N.C. Central has guaranteed itself a winning season heading into its probable finale tomorrow.
The Eagles (6-4, 5-2 MEAC) have Saturday’s only home game, and will kick off with historic archrival North Carolina A&T (6-4, 4-3) at 2 p.m.
Both ACC games are at 3:30, with Duke (6-4, 3-3) traveling to Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-3) and N.C. State (6-4, 3-3) going to No. 10 Clemson (9-1, 6-1) in the annual Textile Bowl clash. Duke’s game will be shown on ESPNU, while State-Clemson will be on WTVD.
N.C. Central vs. North Carolina A&T
A&T, coached by former Eagle mentor Rod Broadway, leads the series 47-31-5 including a 31-21 victory last season in Greensboro. With a victory the Eagles — who went 2-9 last season — would tie a best season-to-season turnaround in school history last accomplished in 1980.
The Eagles are coming off a tough 22-21 loss at Florida A&M on Saturday that almost certainly ended their chances of participating in the Division I (FCS) playoffs. A&T beat visiting South Carolina State 17-7. The Dunkel Index lists the game as an even matchup.
“It’s exciting,” NCCU coach Henry Frazier said. “It’s our last game of the season, against our rivals, and I’m looking forward to the showdown. Both teams have had some success this year, and it’s going to be a dogfight.
“They have a disciplined team and are going to be exactly where they’re supposed to be. They make no mistakes, and they fly to the football. It’s going to be a defensive struggle, and we have to minimize mistakes. The team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win.”
Jordan Reid has completed 136 of 223 passes for 1452 yards and 12 TDs with 11 interceptions for the Eagles. Arthur Goforth has carried 134 times for 570 yards and three TDs, with 31 catches for 230 yards.
Mike Mayhew has carried 168 times for 732 yards and six TDs for the Aggies. Lewis Kindle has completed 104 of 182 passes for 1173 yards and three TDs with 11 interceptions.
Duke at Georgia Tech
Duke has already clinched its first bowl spot since 1994 and is now looking for a winning season. The Blue Devils will play in the ACC title game if they win their final two games, but that is no easy task. Tech leads the series 48-30-1 and has won eight straight against Duke.
The Blue Devils are coming off back-to-back losses to Florida State and Clemson by a total of 77 points, but have had an open date to recover. Tech won 68-50 at UNC last week in the highest scoring game in ACC history. Georgia Tech is a 13 ½-point favorite.
“It’s good to be back playing football,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s funny how an open date makes you feel like it’s been forever since we have played. I thought it was very obvious Sunday evening when our team came back. They were excited to be back; energetic. … I think our guys realize that they have a great opportunity in front of them, as well as a great challenge. Both of those should motivate you to prepare well. If you don’t prepare for a team like Georgia Tech, you will have a very difficult time. At this point, I think they’re very excited about both, the challenge and they’re very aware of the opportunity.”
Sean Renfree has completed 200 of 297 passes for 2125 yards and 12 TDs with seven interceptions for Duke. Jamison Crowder has caught 60 passes for 812 yards and six TDs, while Conner Vernon has snagged 59 for 808 yards and five TDs.
Tech’s Tevin Washington has completed 56 of 95 passes for 940 yards and four TDs with three interceptions, also rushing 123 times for 536 yards and 17 TDs. And freshman Durham Hillside alum Vad Lee has completed 18 of 34 for 446 yards and three TDs with one interception, also rushing 70 times for 434 yards and eight TDs.
N.C. State at Clemson
Clemson leads the all-time series with the Wolfpack 51-28-1, but lost 37-13 in Raleigh last season in one of State’s greatest games in recent memory. The Wolfpack’s last win in Death Valley was 10 years ago.
State is coming off a 37-6 rout of Wake Forest on Saturday, while Clemson walloped visiting Maryland 45-10. Clemson is a 17-point favorite.
“We certainly have a big challenge heading to Death Valley, but it's a great place to play football against a great football team,” State coach Tom O’Brien said. “They’re very explosive on offense and solid on defense. Our kids are excited about the opportunity to go play and see what we can do. ... Certainly it's a tough venue to play in. They feed off their crowd, and they have so many big play guys, a quarterback that can beat you with arm or leg, tailbacks catch the ball and run with it, and same thing with their wide receivers. There's not any one area that you can say they're weak in.”
Mike Glennon has completed 239 of 417 passes for 2910 yards and 22 TDs with 13 interceptions for the Wolfpack. Shadrach Thornton has carried 93 times for 436 yards and two TDs, while Bryan Underwood has 40 catches for 588 yards and 10 TDs.
Tajh Boyd has completed 210 of 309 passes for 2941 yards and 28 TDs with nine interceptions, also carrying 122 times for 363 yards and five TDs for the Tigers. DeAndre Hopkins has 66 carries for 1096 yards and 14 TDs.