by Mike Potter
Floridians will be invading the Triangle for a couple of pretty big ACC football games today.
UNC (5-1, 1-1 ACC) will host Miami (2-3, 0-2) at 12:30 at Kenan Stadium, while Duke (3-2, 1-0) will entertain preseason conference favorite Florida State (2-3, 0-2) at 3 p.m. at Wallace Wade.
N.C. State (3-3, 0-2) is idle, waiting for its trip to Virginia a week from today.
The Tar Heels have shaken off the effects of the scandals that have hit the program so hard over the last year and turned into a club that’s not far from the Top 25. A win over the Hurricanes would assure the Tar Heels a bowl berth.
UNC is 8-7 all-time against the Hurricanes and 4-0 in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels are 2 ½-point favorites.
“I don’t know if surprised is the word,” UNC interim coach Everett Withers said about the fast start. “I think we thought that if we would play the way we knew we could play—and we haven’t at times—but if we just played and stayed with the plan, that we would have a chance to have some success. …
“I can’t speak to what (Miami is) going through. I know they have a lot of talent and when you look at their team, they have a chance to be really good. And if you look at what they do on defense, it is very similar to what we do on defense. I think their mindset on offense is a lot like ours: try to run the football and take care of the quarterback. But I have no idea if it has anything to do with what they’re going through off the field. It’s just I think they’re similar in a lot of ways.”
Duke is 0-16 all-time against the Seminoles, who were the odds-on preseason favorites to win the conference title.
But Duke is on a three-game winning streak — for the second time in the last three seasons under David Cutcliffe and just the second time since 1994 — while FSU has lost three straight. Nevertheless, FSU is a 12 ½-point favorite.
“Whether (the Seminoles have) lost or won, it really doesn’t matter — our focus is on Duke,” Cutcliffe said. “If we don’t play well, we won’t have an opportunity to beat these people. If we play well, whether they won or lost, we certainly have a chance to win this game. So our focus is on Duke playing as good as we can play, and if someone is talking about them being angry about losing, then what is our problem?
“We have had enough years of frustrations to be angry about a lot of things. They are a good team. They have a lot of weapons and speed on offense. … This is a huge opportunity but also a huge challenge for our folks. We’re excited about it and looking forward to playing.”