The Triangle’s most interesting college football season in years seems to get better as the wins pile up.
And this weekend, which gets jump-started a little early tonight, is no exception. All three games involving area teams will be shown live on ESPNU.
Then on Saturday one of the area’s biggest games of the year comes a little early. After N.C. State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) visits Maryland (4-2, 2-0) for a 3:30 matchup, Duke (5-2, 2-1) takes on UNC (5-2, 2-1) at 7 p.m. in the annual battle for the Victory Bell.
N.C. Central vs. Hampton
Hampton is ahead 17-5 and has won eight straight in the series with the Eagles, including a 30-27 overtime heartbreaker for NCCU on the Pirates’ field last season. NCCU, which is coming off a 24-20 win at Morgan State on Saturday, is ranked as high as No. 8 in some national Black College polls.
Hampton beat visiting Norfolk State 28-14 on Saturday. The Dunkel Index has NCCU ranked a point better than the Pirates.
“It’s awesome (to be on ESPNU),” NCCU coach Henry Frazier said. “We’re developing our brand as an FCS program. We’re excited. … (Hampton) is on TV as well, so they’re going to come at us with a good effort. We know we’re going to get everyone’s best effort for 60 minutes, so we have to play hard football and bring that hammer.”
Jordan Reid has completed 80 of 125 passes for 876 yards and six TDs with six interceptions for NCCU. Arthur Goforth has carried 77 times for 361 yards and three TDs, while Marvin Poole has 23 catches for 290 yards and two TDs.
Travis Champion has completed 95 of 160 for 981 yards and five TDs with seven interceptions for Hampton, while Jeremiah Schwartz has carried 90 times for 477 yards and five TDs.
N.C. State at Maryland
State needs two wins to become bowl-eligible, and is looking for its first at Byrd Stadium since 2004. The series is tied 32-32-4. Stuck in Maryland’s craw has to be the Wolfpack’s 56-41 season-ending win in Raleigh last year, in which State scored the last 42 points including 35 in the fourth quarter.
State won’t have played for 14 days following its 17-16 shocker over No. 3 Florida State in Raleigh Oct. 6. Maryland won 27-20 at Virginia on Saturday. The Wolfpack is a three-point favorite.
“Maryland (is) playing great right now, coming off two victories, especially one on the road,” State coach Tom O’Brien said. “They have a senior defense that's playing great, second only to Florida State in every major category defensively as far as the conference is concerned. Then certainly they're very explosive on offense, with tremendous speed and skill at the wide receiver and tight end position. It will be a great challenge for us, but we look forward to the opportunity.”
Mike Glennon has completed 139 of 231 passes for 1681 yards and 12 TDs with seven interceptions for the Wolfpack. Tony Creecy has carried 64 times for 284 yards and three TDs, while Quintin Payton has rushed 25 times for 500 yards and a TD.
Perry Hills has completed 85 of 149 passes for 1177 yards and eight TDs with six interceptions for Maryland, while Stefon Diggs has 21 catches for 453 yards and three TDs.
Duke vs. UNC
Duke is looking for its first non-losing season since 1994, with one more win making the Blue Devils bowl-eligible. The Blue Devils are coming off a heart-breaking 41-20 loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday, while UNC won 18-14 at Miami.
The Tar Heels lead the series with Duke 58-36-4, with eight straight wins including last season’s 37-21 decision in Chapel Hill. UNC is a 10½-point favorite.
“We obviously have a huge challenge in front of us playing a very talented North Carolina team,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We’re coming off a pretty difficult loss, but at this point we’ve practiced with intensity and prepared well. Again, it will be a big challenge. We'll have to prepare well to have an opportunity this week but we are glad to be back at home at Wallace Wade Stadium. And I've said this all week long, it’s the first time that we've played North Carolina on a non-Thanksgiving Saturday, so it's the first chance since I've been here that our students will have an opportunity to go to this ballgame.”
This is first-year UNC coach Larry Fedora’s first go at the ancient rivalry.
“This is a very important game for us,” Fedora said. “It's the 99th meeting and game for the Victory Bell and it's something that our players take a lot of pride in and so we are excited to the opportunity to play. We know Duke — they’re going to get after it. They’re one win away from being Bowl-eligible, and they would love to do it against us.”
Sean Renfree has completed 141 of 201 passes for 1517 yards and 10 TDs with six interceptions for Duke. Conner Vernon has 45 catches for 625 yards and five TDs for the Blue Devils, while Jela Duncan has 46 carries for 265 yards and two scores.
Bryn Renner has completed 146 of 233 passes for 1830 yards and 15 TDs with five interceptions for UNC. Gio Bernard has rushed 79 times for 652 yards and seven TDs for the Tar Heels, while Eric Ebron has 26 catches for 399 yards and three scores.