by Mike Potter
College football’s regular season ends on Saturday for the Triangle’s three ACC football games, but two of them are going to have more games to play.
UNC (6-5, 3-4 ACC) will look to improve its bowl assignment when it travels to Duke (3-8, 1-6) for the annual Victory Bell game. Of course this in itself is a sort of bowl game for Duke, which last won a game over the Tar Heels in 2003 and will be honoring 19 seniors on Senior Day.
But the really big one is at Maryland (7-4, 4-3), which will honor 16 seniors as it attempts to keep N.C. State (8-3, 5-2) from getting a meeting with Virginia Tech for the ACC title on Dec. 4 in Charlotte.
“We’re real proud of our seniors and what they’ve accomplished,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s been a difficult year to have played as well as we have at times and the record to still be what it is. It’s certainly a good ball game for them to end their careers with a rival team that sits so close to us.
“We’re playing an extremely talented team, and we’ll have to play as well as we can play to be in the ball game.”
UNC coach Butch Davis would love to clinch a winning season after all the troubles the program has had with the NCAA this season.
“Obviously there are significant challenges any time you play any football game, but obviously there are challenges against Duke,” Davis said. “It’s a football team that David Cutcliffe has built that is improving every season. Statistically they’re better, athletically they’re better, fundamentally and schematically they’re a better football team.
“We’ve had two very disappointing losses (in a row) emotionally and psychologically, and this will put our team very much to the test of bouncing back and playing to the best of our ability this week.”
Should the Wolfpack win Saturday, it will have a chance to claim the ACC title for the first time since 1979.
“It’s an exciting time for our school, our fans and our football team, and hopefully we can find a way to go win a game,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said. “We have a mature group of kids who have been very workmanlike in everything they do. We know we’ve got a huge challenge. Maryland has done a great job taking the football away from people and taking care of it themselves.
“Every year we have our alumni reunion the guys from the ’79 always remind us that it’s been that long. It’s a source of pride to them, but it’s also an irritant that it’s been that long since we’ve won it.”
UNC vs. Duke
[Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Wallace Wade Stadium]
UNC leads series 56-36-4.
Records: UNC 6-5, 3-4 ACC; Duke 3-8, 1-6.
Audio: WDNC 620, WCHL 1360, WKIX-FM 102.9, WRDU-FM 106.1, XM 191, Sirius 213.
Coaches’ records — UNC: Butch Davis 77-43, 26-23 at UNC; Duke: David Cutcliffe 56-52, 12-23 at Duke.
Leading rushers — UNC: Shaun Draughn 93-148, 4 TD; Duke: Desmond Scott 116-546, 3 TD.
Leading passers — UNC: T.J. Yates 231-348-2920-8, 17 TD; Duke: Sean Renfree 261-425-2889-15, 13 TD.
Leading receivers — UNC: Dwight Jones 46-774, 4 TD; Duke: Conner Vernon 68-918, 4 TD.
Leading tacklers — UNC: Zach Brown 65, ½ TFL, 2 INT; Duke: Abraham Kromah 109, 8 1/2 TFL, 1 SK, 1 INT, 1 FF.
Favorite — UNC by 8 (Vegas).
No. 21 N.C. State vs. Maryland
[Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Byrd Stadium]
Series tied 31-31-4.
Records: NCSU 8-3, 5-2 ACC; UM 7-4, 4-3.
Audio: WRBZ 850, WRAL-FM 101.5, XM 192, Sirius 214.
Coaches’ records — NCSU: Tom O’Brien 99-69, 23-24 at NCSU; UM: Ralph Friedgen 73-50 at UM.
Leading rushers — NCSU: Mustafa Greene 129-576, 4 TD; UM: Davin Meggett 115-647, 4 TD.
Leading passers — NCSU: Russell Wilson 249-422-2577-13, 24 TD; UM: Danny O’Brien 146-268-1840-6, 17 TD.
Leading receivers — NCSU: Owen Spencer 52-799, 3 TD; UM: Torrey Smith 51-821, 8 TD.
Leading tacklers — NCSU: Earl Wolff 88, 4 ½ TFL, 2 SK, 1 INT, 1 FR, 3 FF; UM: Alex Wujciak 105, 4 ½ TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF.
Favorite — NCSU by 2 (Vegas).