Both Duke and N.C. State got opening-week wins against visiting in-state Division I FCS teams and will seek minor road upsets this week. UNC, which lost its season opener to LSU, is idle until its Sept. 18 home game with Georgia Tech.
The Blue Devils, who topped a good Elon team 41-27, will visit Wake Forest (1-0), which has won an unlikely 10 straight games in the series. The Wolfpack, who destroyed Western Carolina 48-7, will travel to a 1-0 Central Florida team that won 25-22 three years ago in Raleigh in Tom O’Brien’s debut game as State’s head coach.
Duke has lost the last 13 times it has played an ACC opener on the road, but things have been looking up as David Cutcliffe revs up his third campaign at the helm. But the Deacons were impressive in a 53-13 rout of visiting Presbyterian eight days ago.
“We're excited about the opportunity of playing the opening conference game,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s a huge challenge, particularly when it’s on the road. I think it’s good for your team. I think it’s good for them to take in the understanding of the importance of conference play, and this is a huge game for us. It’s not only a first conference game, but a first road game and a rivalry, an annual opponent that we play in Wake Forest. We haven’t done too well in our series as of late, so a huge challenge for our young football team to go play well on the road.”
Both teams have new starting quarterbacks this season. Duke’s Sean Renfree had the type of performance against the Phoenix that would have been good from a fifth-year senior. Wake’s Ted Stachitas was steady, mixing in a decent passing night with some solid running.
“I liked a lot of the things Ted did,” Wake coach Jim Grobe said. “He misfired on a couple of pretty easy open throws, which was disappointing. And he fumbled the football one time, which we can’t do. We can’t turn the football over. I thought he did some good things, made some really good decisions. He ran the ball well and made some good throws. We’ve got to get him a little bit more comfortable.”
Cutcliffe said weeks ago that the Wake game was going to be one of the more important games on the Blue Devils’ slate.
“We’ve got a difficult schedule and we might as well jump into it now,” he said. “We’ll have to take advantage of every scoring opportunity and prevent big plays. It’s like any conference game. You’ve got to win the kicking game and win the turnover margin. … We can’t run and hide the fact that it’s a big football game for us. You have to deal with it whether you win or lose. We know at Duke every opportunity we have to stop a streak or hit a milestone we need to take advantage of it.”
Grobe said the game is a very big one for the Deacons as well.
“We made way too many mistakes (in the opener), but you typically do in a first game,” he said.
“We’ve got a really fine Duke team coming to town and Coach Cutcliffe and his guys are doing a great job with that program, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. We found out (against Presbyterian) that our kids like to play and they like to compete. We got the young guys some game time, and that was our biggest concern.”
Central Florida, a member of Conference USA, is a long way from being a traditional national power. But the Knights — who routed visiting South Dakota 38-7 in their opener — are an up-and-coming team in the conference, and their head coach George O’Leary is 7-1 all-time against the Wolfpack.
The best weapon on the Wolfpack’s young offensive unit is quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for four touchdowns against the Catamounts.
“We’re on our way to playing a really good football team,” O’Brien said. “They had a nice start to the year. They’re a big, strong, powerful offensive football team that likes to run the ball. Their quarterback had a great night and threw for over 80 percent. Defensively they had a great night. They led their conference in defense last year.
“They look a lot like they did last year in summer film study. They’re powerful guys up front. They have really good experience at linebacker and run to the football. And their secondary progressed as the year went on. George O’Leary can coach defense, there’s no question about that, and they’re projected to be the top defense in their conference.”
Duke vs. Wake Forest
[Saturday, noon, BB&T Field, Winston-Salem]
Duke leads series 53-35-2.
Records: Duke 1-0, Wake 1-0.
Audio: WDNC 620, WRBZ 850, XM 191, Sirius 213, WHLQ 102.5.
Video: WLFL-TV 22.
Coaches’ records — Duke: David Cutcliffe 54-44,10-15 at Duke; Wake: Jim Grobe 93-84-1, 60-51 at Wake.
Leading rushers — Duke: Desmond Scott 15-77, 1 TD; Wake: Devon Brown 2-91, 1 TD.
Leading passers — Duke: Sean Renfree 31-39-0-350, 2 TD; Wake: Ted Stachitas 7-13-0-84, 0TD.
Leading receivers — Duke: Conner Vernon 10-129, 0 TD; Wake: Terence Davis 3-12, 0 TD.
Leading tacklers —— Duke: Lee Butler 9, 2 PBU; Wake: Kyle Wilber 8, 5 TFL, 3 Sk, 1 FF, 1 Bk.
Favorite — Wake by 6 (Vegas).
N.C. State vs. Central Florida
[Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Bright House Networks Stadium, Orlando]
UCF leads series 1-0.
Records: NCSU 1-0, UCF 1-0.
Audio: WRAL-FM 101.5, XM 192, Sirius 214, UCFAthletics.com.
Video: CBS College Sports.
Coaches’ records — NCSU: Tom O’Brien 92-66, 17-21 at NCSU; UCF: George O’Leary 87-74, 35-41 at UCF.
Leading rushers — NCSU: Dean Haynes 13-69, 1 TD; UCF: Jonathan Davis 20-107, 1 TD.
Leading passers — NCSU: Russell Wilson 21-31-306-0, 4 TD; UCF: Rob Calabrese 10-15-0-176, 1 TD.
Leading receivers — NCSU: T.J. Graham 6-96, 2 TD; UCF: A.J. Guyton 8-127, 1 TD.
Leading tacklers —— NCSU: Terrell Manning 10; UCF: Derrick Hallman 5, 1 TFL.
Favorite — UCF by 3 (Vegas).