by Mike Potter
It’s the highest profile football game played in the Triangle each season, and it means plenty to everyone involved.
The Triangle’s other two Division I teams are both headed to Florida for possible season-making games as well. Duke (6-2, 3-1) will visit No. 11 Florida State (7-1, 4-1) at Doak Campbell Stadium in a 3:30 game to be shown on ESPNU, while N.C. Central (5-2, 4-0 MEAC) will visit Bethune-Cookman (5-2, 4-0) at 4 in a contest that will determine first place in the MEAC.
UNC vs. N.C. State
State coach Tom O’Brien has never lost to the Tar Heels in five previous meetings. And the Tar Heels’ first-year head coach, Larry Fedora, has the unenviable assignment of needing to win today to avoid being swept by the other three “Big Four” ACC teams.
And if the Wolfpack were to win it would become bowl-eligible, making it the second straight week the Tar Heels had lost to an archrival that became bowl-eligible with the victory. UNC is enduring a one-year bowl ban because of the academic and professionalism scandal that knocked the program for a loop last year.
“Certainly this is a special game for N.C. State,” O’Brien said. “We’ve been working hard this week trying to put ourselves in the best possible position so we can go over to Chapel Hill and win a football game. They’re undefeated at home. They do a great job when they’re playing in Chapel Hill. It’s a big challenge for us, but our kids are excited about the opportunity to go see how we match up with them.”
The Tar Heels are listed as 7½- point favorites. UNC, which leads the series 63-32-6, lost a 33-30 heartbreaker to the Blue Devils. State won a 20-18 squeaker at Maryland last week.
“We're really excited about hosting one of our rivals this week at Kenan Stadium, and we're looking forward to it,” Fedora said. “We know it will be a heck of a battle, and I’m sure that they’ll be a well-prepared team. I think it will be a tremendous atmosphere. I think it's one of the reasons you play the game as a young man is for games like this. That’s what you dream about. So it should be a lot of fun.”
State’s Mike Glennon has completed 162 of 278 passes for 1988 yards and 14 TDs with seven interceptions. Quintin Payton has caught 29 passes for 551 yards and a TD, while Tony Creecy has rushed 81 times for 319 yards and three TDs.
UNC’s Bryn Renner has completed 165 of 265 passes for 2028 yards with 17 TDs and five interceptions. Gio Bernard has carried 103 times for 795 yards and eight TDs, while Eric Ebron has caught 31 passes for 467 yards and three TDs.
Duke at Florida State
Duke has a nightmarish record of futility against the loaded Seminoles, who are 17-0 against the Blue Devils since FSU joined the ACC. But Duke is having its best season since at least 1994.
“We’re playing a very physical team,” Blue Devil coach David Cutcliffe said. “We’re playing the fastest team that we’ve seen if that tells you anything. That puts a premium on our practice, our preparation and we’ve got to continue to move that forward as quickly as we can.”
FSU, which is listed as a 27-point favorite, beat Miami 33-20 last week. The only blemish on the Seminoles’ record is a 17-16 loss at N.C. State on Oct. 6.
Sean Renfree has completed 164 of 237 passes for 1793 yards and 11 TDs with seven interceptions. Conner Vernon has caught 51 passes for 749 yards and five TDs, while Jela Duncan has rushed 68 times for 351 yards and three TDs.
E.J. Manuel has completed 153 of 214 passes for 2033 yards and 14 TDs with four interceptions.
N.C. Central at Bethune-Cookman
The Eagles are in their second season of eligibility for the Division I-FCS playoffs, and with an MEAC championship that would be exactly where they would go.
But taking on the Wildcats is no easy assignment, especially since B-CU has beaten the Eagles each of the past two seasons in Durham including a 34-6 rout last season.
The Eagles drubbed visiting Hampton 37-20 on Oct. 18, while the Wildcats demolished Norfolk State 48-3 on Saturday. The Dunkel Index has B-CU favored by 16.
“It’s going to be a heavyweight battle,” Eagle coach Henry Frazier said. “We’ve been working hard and we’re getting an opportunity to go against a pretty good Bethune-Cookman football team. We’re doing the little things off the field that translate into wins on the field. We’re excited to be in this position late in October that if we get a ‘W’ we can be in the driver’s seat for a conference championship.”
Jordan Reid has completed 92 of 149 passes for 1084 yards and eight TDs with six interceptions for the Eagles. Arthur Goforth has rushed 91 times for 387 yards and three TDs, while Marvin Poole has caught 25 passes for 319 yards and two TDs.
Quentin Williams has completed 43 of 68 passes for 529 yards and five TDs without an interception for the Wildcats. Isidore Jackson has rushed 112 times for 549 yards and five TDs.