by Mike Potter
N.C. State (3-1, 0-1 ACC) and N.C. Central (2-2) both play their conference road openers as mild favorites, while UNC (1-3, 0-1) is an underdog in a game it desperately needs to win.
Duke (3-2, 0-2 ACC) got the ship righted on Saturday against Troy, and gets a week off before facing a must-win home game against Navy.
The Tar Heels will start the action at 12:30 p.m. at Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0) in a game to be shown on WRAL.
The Eagles will visit Howard (1-3, 0-1) in NCCU’s MEAC opener at 1 p.m.
UNC at Virginia Tech
The Tar Heels are reeling on a two-game losing streak after last week’s 55-31 blowout loss to visiting East Carolina.
And a trip to Blacksburg is no easy way to try to shake off the doldrums. UNC shocked the visiting Hokies 48-34 last year, but trails the series 18-10-6 and is listed as a seven-point underdog.
UNC’s Bryn Renner has completed 91 of 152 passes for 1117 yards and seven TDs with three interceptions. Eric Ebron has caught 17 passes for 263 yards and a TD for the Tar Heels, while A.J. Blue has 43 carries for 176 yards.
“I don't know if there's any part of coaching that's easy,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “I think you work extremely hard and you do the best job you can to prepare your kids each and every week to play at that high level, and that’s ultimately my responsibility as a head football coach. We didn't get it done last week, and I can't tell you we're preparing any differently because I believe in the way we prepare. And so hopefully, I'll do a better job of getting our guys ready to play on Saturday.”
Logan Thomas has completed 84 of 159 passes for 919 yards and five TDs with six interceptions for the Hokies. Trey Edmunds has carried 84 times for 353 yards and three TDs, while Demetri Knowles has 20 catches for 210 yards and a TD.
NCCU at Howard
The Eagles had last week off after a 35-17 loss to FCS No. 2 Towson, which had opened the season with a 33-18 win at Connecticut.
NCCU’s two losses have come to Duke and Towson, a pair of clubs that should be far superior to anyone in the MEAC.
Howard leads the series — which resumes for the first time since 1995 — 9-7-1. But NCCU is a seven-point favorite according to the Dunkel Index.
NCCU’s Jordan Reid has completed 74 of 134 passes for 815 yards and four TDs with three interceptions. Idreis Augustus has carried 44 times for 208 yards and two TDs, while Adrian Wilkins has 14 catches for 185 yards and a TD.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to go on the road and work to get a win,” Eagle coach Dwayne Foster said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to get started off on a good note (in conference play). It’s going to be an exciting contest and a great atmosphere for college football. We have to continue to move the ball consistently and finish. We have to finish on defense on third down, and have good special teams play. I like to think our spirits are high. Every goal we have is still right there for us.”
Greg McGhee has completed 79 of 130 passes for 825 yards and six TDs with five interceptions for the Bison. Howard’s William Parker has 60 carries for 278 yards and a TD, while Brandon Flanagan has 16 catches for 148 yards.
State at Wake Forest
The Wolfpack was going to have to play a road game eventually, and this week will travel to its most frequent rival.
State and Wake have met 106 times in football with the Wolfpack holding a 63-37-6 advantage, but the Wolfpack hasn’t won in Winston-Salem since 2001.
The Wolfpack, which walloped the Deacons 37-6 last season, is listed as a 7 ½-point favorite.
State’s Pete Thomas has completed 73 of 114 passes for 906 yards and a TD with five interceptions. Matt Dayes has 40 carries for 180 yards and four TDs, while Rashard Smith has 20 catches for 235 yards.
“I’m excited to take our first road trip as a team, see how we can handle the things that happen when you go on the road - the different routine, the bus, the hotel, obviously an unfamiliar locker room and field,” State coach Dave Doeren said. “It's a big challenge for us this week at Wake, a place where State traditionally hasn't played well. The last seven of eight times they traveled up there they haven't come home happy. It's been a home-team advantage for the last however-many contests. We're excited about the opportunity. I know our players are looking forward to competing against them. I know they’ll play hard.”
Wake’s Tanner Price has completed 80 of 141 passes for 977 yards and six TDs with two interceptions. Michael Campanaro has 32 catches for 429 yards and two TDs, while Josh Harris has 48 catches for 158 yards and two TDs.
“You’d think we would start to know pretty much our personnel and what's best for us, but even though I think we know our personnel better we really haven't found a niche yet,” Wake coach Jim Grobe said. “So we’re continuing to work some different things in the running game and the throwing game and trying to figure out a way to get our best players the football. We need to really, obviously, every week play good defense and good special teams until we start playing better offensively.”
Last week’s three stars
1. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke. The junior caught seven passes for 149 yards including a 60-yard TD, finishing with 180 all-purpose yards to earn ACC receiver of the week honors.
2. Rashard Smith, WR, N.C. State. The senior returned a punt 87 yards for a TD in the Wolfpack’s 48-14 rout of Central Michigan, rushing for 41 yards and catching three passes for 39 to earn ACC specialist of the week honors.
3. Jeremy Cash, SS, Duke. The sophomore had 14 tackles including 2 ½ for losses and a game-saving interception in the 38-31 win over Troy to earn ACC defensive back of the week honors.