Triangle football squads a quartet of underdogs this week

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State QB Pete Thomas looks for a receiver as Rob Crisp blocks.
  • File photo by Dean Strickland O.D.
  • State QB Pete Thomas looks for a receiver as Rob Crisp blocks.
Just call it “Opportunity Week.”

Two weeks ago all four Division I college football teams in the Triangle were favored to win on the same day, and thanks to a last-second field goal and some overtime heroics, all four of them did.

Well, this time the scenario is exactly the opposite. The oddsmakers and experts are expecting everyone to lose, some in very convincing fashion.

Three of the games are at home with one on the road.

The show starts tonight at Carter-Finley Stadium, where N.C. State (2-0) hopes to continue its perfect start to the Dave Doeren era with an upset of No. 3-ranked ACC favorite Clemson in a 7:30 game on ESPN.

The action continues on Saturday at noon in Atlanta, with UNC (1-1) visiting Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) in the Tar Heels’ ACC opener on ESPN. Then at 12:30 on WRAL, Duke (2-1, 0-1) will entertain Pittsburgh (1-1, 0-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium in the Panthers’ first visit to the Triangle as members of the ACC.

And at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, N.C. Central (2-1) will conclude the non-MEAC portion of its schedule against CAA power Towson (3-0), which already has a road romp at Connecticut and is No. 3 in the FCS national rankings.

N.C. State vs. Clemson
The Wolfpack is a 13½-point underdog against the Tigers, who two seasons ago came to Raleigh with a No. 7 ranking and were dealt a shocking 37-13 Textile Bowl whipping.

NCSU also delivered a major upset last season when the Wolfpack knocked off visiting No. 3 Florida State 17-16.

This will be the first time Doeren has been an underdog as Wolfpack coach, after wins over Louisiana Tech and Richmond.

“Obviously we're excited for the opportunity to coach and play against a great team like Clemson on a national stage,” Doeren said. “These are the kinds of games that players and coaches alike all joined up to do … because of this kind of opportunity. I look forward to seeing the guys compete. We play a great team in Clemson that returns a lot of very good players, experienced players, and a staff that has continuity against a young team that has a new staff. So there are a lot of challenges for us. But we do have a great home-field advantage in Carter-Finley and our fans, so anything can happen on a day, and that's why you play the games. I know our guys are excited to get out there and compete with them.”

Pete Thomas has completed 39 of 58 passes for 449 yards with three interceptions for the Wolfpack. Marques Valdez-Scantling has 12 catches for 174 yards. Matt Dayes has carried 31 times for 127 yards and three TDs.

Tiger QB Tajh Boyd, the preseason pick for ACC player of the year, has completed 32 of 53 passes for 439 yards and three TDs. Sammy Watkins has nine catches for 146 yards and a TD. Roderick McDowell has rushed 30 times for 175 yards.

Clemson leads the all-time series 52-28-1.

Duke vs. Pittsburgh

The Panthers are listed as four-point favorites over the Blue Devils, a team they last played in 1976.
Pittsburgh was the visiting team in the first game ever played in what is now Wallace Wade Stadium, on Oct. 5, 1929.

Duke RB Jela Duncan
  • Duke RB Jela Duncan
The Blue Devils will try to bounce back from Saturday’s 38-14 loss to visiting Georgia Tech, while Pitt — which lost its opener 41-13 to visiting Florida State — whipped visiting New Mexico 45-27 on Saturday.

“Pittsburgh is just good, solid, old-fashioned football in a football area, a football state,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “They’re obviously a former Big East team where they play good basketball and all, but Pitt is Pitt. If you know anything about (Mike) Ditka, (Tony) Dorsett and Mark May, if you know anything about Pitt, you understand football. I like the brand that they bring in western PA. Deep, deep traditional football. It doesn’t surprise me that a Paul Chryst football team plays really hard, really physical and they will play 60 minutes. So this sets up to be a really, really good ACC football matchup this Saturday.”

Brandon Connette, who is Duke’s starting quarterback as Anthony Boone mends from his broken collarbone, has completed 34 of 57 passes for 375 yards and four TDs with one interception. Jamison Crowder has 23 catches for 240 yards, while Jela Duncan has 34 carries for 196 yards and two TDs.

Pitt’s Tom Savage has completed 28 of 45 passes for 437 yards and three TDs with four interceptions. Devin Street has 11 catches for 221 yards, while James Connor has 21 carries for 153 yards and two TDs.

Pitt leads the all-time series 9-8.

N.C. Central vs. Towson

The Dunkel Index has the Tigers — the favorites in probably the strongest FCS conference in the country — listed as whopping 35-point favorites as the teams square off for the first time.

NCCU is ranked No. 6 in the Boxtorow HBCU media poll, and would almost certainly get into the big FCS poll if the Eagles pull the upset.

The Eagles are coming off a 40-13 road shocker over UNC Charlotte.

“Towson is a very good football team,” NCCU coach Dwayne Foster said. “It’s going to take a valiant effort to get a win. They do a lot of things well. Their running back Terrance West does everything you’d ask him to do. … Defensively they’re an extremely active bunch, very athletic. And they try to mix up a lot of things to try to rattle your quarterback.”

Jordan Reid has completed 49 of 88 passes for 518 yards and two TDs with one interception for the Eagles. Adrian Wilkins has 10 catches for 151 yards and two TDs, while Idreis Augustus has 39 carries for 206 yards and a two TDs.

Towson QB Peter Athens has completed 46 of 67 passes for 633 yards and four TDs with one interception. Leon Kinnard has 12 catches for 190 yards and a TD, while West has 69 carries for 359 yards and nine TDs.

UNC at Georgia Tech
The Tar Heels are listed as 6½-point underdogs to the Yellow Jackets in a game they need to win to make a run at the Coastal Division title.

And the Tar Heels haven’t won in Atlanta since 1997.

UNC RB Romar Morris
  • UNC RB Romar Morris

Tech won 68-50 last year in Chapel Hill in the highest-scoring conference game in ACC history.

UNC coach Larry Fedora said preparing for Georgia Tech’s offense can be an ordeal.

“You have to prepare for the triple option, and you spend your time preparing for the triple option, and then they get in the gun and a three-back set back there that’s kind of in vogue right now across college football and it makes it difficult,” Fedora explained. “It’s two different styles of offense, and they’re able to do that because of Vad Lee. Vad is a very talented young man who can beat you with his legs or his arm. I think what they have done is they have put together pieces of both of those offenses to be very, very successful, and it makes it really hard on your defense.”

UNC’s Bryn Renner has completed 49 of 77 passes for 533 yards and two TDs with one interception. Romar Morris has 25 catches for 115 yards and two TDs, while Mark McNeill has five catches for 99 yards.

Lee, an alumnus of Hillside High, has completed 15 of 27 passes for 314 yards and six TDs with one interception, and is also Tech’s rushing leader with 125 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. The Yellow Jackets’ Robert Godhigh has five catches for 83 yards and two TDs.

Tech leads the all-time series 27-18-3.

Last week’s three stars
1. Adrian Wilkins, WR, NCCU. The sophomore had a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD and caught five passes for 83 yards to earn MEAC specialist of the week honors.
2. Idreis Augustus, RB, NCCU. The sophomore carried 16 times for 80 yards and two TDs.
3. Michael Jones, CB, NCCU. The true freshman had two interceptions that set up touchdowns to earn MEAC rookie of the week honors.

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