by Mike Potter
At 12:30 p.m., Duke (6-5, 3-4 ACC), with Coach David Cutcliffe just having received a contract extension, will take on Miami (6-5, 4-3), which has given the NCAA a start on upcoming sanctions by saying it won’t go to a bowl this season. The contest will be shown on WRAL.
Both other games will be at 3 p.m.
UNC (7-4, 4-3), with the winning campaign secure in Coach Larry Fedora’s first season at the helm, will host Maryland (4-7, 2-5) in the Terps’ first ACC road game since the university announced it would be leaving for the Big Ten.
N.C. State (6-5, 3-4) will host Boston College (2-9, 1-6) — Coach Tom O’Brien’s old team — and like Duke the Wolfpack has a chance to improve its standing in the bowl pool.
If neither Virginia Tech nor Wake Forest wins today, the ACC will be in the embarrassing situation of having only five teams go to bowl games.
Locally, the mega-happy ending would have the Blue Devils going to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 27 and the Wolfpack to the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31. But there are plenty of moving parts that could throw monkey wrenches into that scenario.
Duke vs. Miami
Duke is looking for its first winning season since 1994, but will have to break an eight-game slide against the Hurricanes to secure it on Saturday. Miami beat Duke 49-14 in South Florida last year.
Duke is on a three-game losing streak including a 42-24 loss at Georgia Tech six days ago. Miami beat visiting South Florida 40-9 the same day. The Hurricanes are 6½-point favorites.
“We have a big hurdle in front of us, and a huge carrot in front of us,” Cutcliffe said. “The prospects of a seventh win, the prospects of then that allowing an eighth win if you accomplish that, are significant. The hurdle is Miami, an extremely talented football team that can ignite things offensively, record setting in passing yards. They can turn around and run for 300. They ran significantly through us a year ago. They have a defense full of speed and athleticism in the secondary. They will challenge our receivers. We will have to perform. It is one that I will be disappointed if Duke doesn’t ignite and that is the expectation, that this to be an emotionally charged football game. “
It’s the final home game for quarterback Sean Renfree, who earlier this week received the season’s top award for a collegian who played Pop Warner football, and for the Blue Devils’ all-time top receiver Conner Vernon. Renfree has completed 224 of 333 passes for 2323 yards and 14 TDs with eight interceptions this season, while Vernon has 64 catches for 846 yards and five TDs this year.
Stephen Morris has completed 230 of 396 passes for 2976 yards and 18 TDs with seven interceptions for Miami, while Duke Johnson has 123 rushes for 781 yards and seven TDs.
UNC vs. Maryland
The Tar Heels knew going into the campaign that all they could hope for were regular-season accomplishments, and can at least claim a convoluted share of a mythical Coastal Division title with a win today. And 8-4 would be the Tar Heels’ best finish in 15 years.
UNC leads the series with Maryland 35-33-1, but the teams haven’t played since 2008. The Tar Heels secured their winning season with a 37-13 romp at Virginia six days ago. Maryland lost 41-14 at Florida State. UNC is a 24 1/2-point favorite.
“We’re looking forward to our final game here of the 2012 season at Kenan Stadium,” Fedora said. “It's a bittersweet feeling. One of excitements for our seniors that they are getting to play their last game in front of their home crowd, but also knowing that this is the end of a pretty special team. But we're looking forward to it.”
Bryn Renner has completed 248 of 383 passes for 3051 yards and 23 TDs with seven interceptions for the Tar Heels. Gio Bernard has rushed 157 times for 1058 yards and 11 TDs and caught 42 passes for 458 yards and five TDs.
Maryland’s Perry Hills has completed 97 of 169 passes for 1336 yards and eight TDs with seven interceptions, while Stefon Diggs has 46 catches for 766 yards and six TDs.
State vs. Boston College
Boston College leads the series with the Wolfpack 6-3 including a 14-10 win in Massachusetts last season that almost derailed State’s bowl hopes.
State is coming off a 62-48 loss to Clemson six days ago. BC has lost three straight games, including a 30-23 home defeat to Virginia Tech last week. State is a 14-point favorite.
“Certainly this is a big game for 16 of our kids because it's Senior Day,” O’Brien said. “Four of them have already graduated, 10 of them are due to graduate here in December, and the two others will graduate within the next year. All 16 kids will have earned their degrees since they've been here. With a win - if we can find a way to win this game Saturday - they'll have won their 24th game in three years, sending them to three Bowl games in a row. The most wins in the history of this school for a three-year period is 26. Early in the '70s it was done and then Philip Rivers did it. They can end up the regular season two wins shy of the best three-year period since it's been here. They've had a great influence on this program as we continue to move forward, it'll be certainly an emotional day for them.”
Mike Glennon, who will be playing his final home game, has completed 268 of 470 passes for 3403 yards and 27 TDs with 14 interceptions. Freshman Shadrach Thornton has 114 carries for 550 yards and three TDs, while Bryan Underwood has 42 catches for 618 yards and 10 TDs.
BC’s Chase Rettig has completed 237 of 422 passes for 2932 yards and 17 TDs with 10 interceptions, while Alex Amidon has 75 catches for 1175 yards and seven TDs.