by Mike Potter
Over the past generation it has been common to see UNC and N.C. State zeroing in on bowl eligibility early and N.C. Central chasing a conference title and playoff berths while Duke is locking up yet another losing season.
Not this time.
Duke is the only team of the four that has assured itself of even a decent season, and is guaranteed its best finish since at least 1994 with a bowl bid already banked.
And today Duke will play its biggest game in a very, very long time.
The Blue Devils (7-2, 3-2 ACC) will take on No. 23 Miami (7-2, 3-2) today at 3:30 (ESPNU) at Wallace Wade Stadium, and would get the inside track toward winning the ACC’s Coastal Division title — and a likely spot in the Orange Bowl — with a win.
Everybody else needs to play desperate football. The only other home game has N.C. Central (4-6, 2-4 MEAC) hosting Norfolk State (3-7, 3-3) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium in a game the Eagles have to win to have a chance for a .500 season.
UNC (4-5, 3-3) will try to keep its hopes for a winning season alive when the Tar Heels visit ACC newcomer Pittsburgh (5-4, 2-3) at 12:30 p.m. (WRAL), while N.C. State (3-6, 0-6) will visit Boston College (5-4, 2-3) at the same time (Fox Sports Carolinas) needing to win out for a .500 record and possible bowl spot.
NCCU vs. Norfolk State
The Eagles need to win both today and next week at uber-archrival North Carolina A&T to avoid a losing season for interim coach Dwayne Foster.
The series is tied 5-5, but the teams have not played since 1995. The Dunkel Index says Norfolk State is a 4½-point favorite on NCCU’s Senior Day.
Jordan Reid has completed 123 of 241 passes for 1383 yards and four TDs with six interceptions for the Eagles. Idreis Augustus has carried 73 times for 319 yards and three TDs, while Adrian Wilkins has caught 33 passes for 387 yards and two TDs.
“What the seniors have done here is outstanding,” Foster said. “They have given us great leadership. We want to send these guys off in the right way. They’re down to their last workouts and last practices and final games, and it’s going to be an emotional day.”
Tyler Clark has completed 87 of 149 passes for 791 yards and six TDs with four interceptions for the Spartans. Rolandan Finch has carried 199 times for 948 yards and three TDs, while Joseph Hawkins has caught 31 passes for 117 yards and a TD.
Duke vs. Miami
Miami leads the series with the Blue Devils 9-1, with Duke a 20-7 winner in their very first meeting in 1976.
The Hurricanes have beaten Duke for eight straight seasons, but never by more than 18 points in Durham and by only 52-45 last season in Florida. Miami is a 3½-point favorite.
Anthony Boone has completed 99 of 159 passes for 1051 yards and five TDs with six interceptions for the Blue Devils. Jela Duncan has carried 75 times for 387 yards and three TDs, while Jamison Crowder has caught 67 passes for 903 yards and three TDs.
“It’s obviously a huge challenge for us this week with a very talented Miami team coming to town,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Our guys are really familiar with them. Obviously they’re a team we play every year and our players have the utmost respect for their speed and size and strength. They've been a very difficult matchup for us and will be again. The thing we have to do is focus on being the best Duke team that we can possibly be and not get outside of that.”
Stephen Morris has completed 126 of 214 passes for 1979 yards and 14 TDs with 10 interceptions for the Hurricanes. Duke Johnson has carried 145 times for 920 yards and six TDs, while Allen Hurns has caught 37 passes for 732 yards and five TDs.
UNC at Pitt
The Tar Heels are headed in the right direction with three wins in a row, but are going to need at least one more big win to earn a bowl spot.
UNC leads the series 4-3, but the only meeting in the last 13 seasons was the Panthers’ 19-17 win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte in 2009. Pitt is listed as a one-point favorite.
Marquise Williams has completed 55 of 94 passes for 722 yards and eight TDs with four interceptions for the Tar Heels. A.J. Blue has carried 73 times for 392 yards and a TD, while Eric Ebron has caught 46 passes for 690 yards and three TDs.
“I’m looking forward to getting this team on the road and going to our next ACC Game,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “We’re ready to take on Paul Chryst and his staff and a well-prepared team that is playing really well with a lot of confidence right now, and just had a signature win over Notre Dame. We know they're going to be very prepared and very confident in what they're doing. We’ll have to
play a very good football game to be successful.”
Tom Savage has completed 155 of 254 passes for 2022 yards and 16 TDs with seven interceptions for the Panthers. Isaac Bennett has carried 122 times for 600 yards and five TDs, while Devin Street has caught 44 passes for 766 yards and six TDs.
NCSU at Boston College
Dave Doeren’s Wolfpack are desperately in need of an ACC win to keep their long-shot hopes for a non-losing season and a bowl berth alive.
State hasn’t won a game since its home-field victory over Central Michigan in September. BC, which leads the series 6-4 but lost 27-10 last season in Raleigh, is listed as a 7½-point favorite.
Pete Thomas has completed 127 of 214 passes for 1460 yards and three TDs with nine interceptions for the Wolfpack. Shadrach Thornton has carried 116 times for 550 yards and four TDs, while Rashard Smith has caught 28 passes for 325 yards.
“We’re looking forward to playing our last road game of the year, and playing against a very good football team in Boston College,” Coach Doeren said. “They’re a very physical team, with the best running back that we’ve seen on the season who statistically leads the league in about every offensive category a rusher can. The number of touches he gets, but what he does after contact, you can tell they’re playing hard as a football team. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Chase Rettig has completed 121 of 189 passes for 1463 yards and 14 TDs with four interceptions for the Eagles.
Andre Williams has carried 246 times for 1471 yards and 12 TDs, while Alex Amidon has caught 57 passes for 726 yards and four TDs.
Last week’s three stars
1. DeVon Edwards, CB, Duke. The freshman had a 100-yard kickoff return, interception returns for touchdowns from 45 and 25 yards and had 10 tackles in the Blue Devils’ 38-20 win over N.C. State to earn ACC freshman of the week honors.
2. Kenny Anunike, DE, Duke. The senior was in on a career-high 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and was named ACC defensive lineman of the week.
3. Kelby Brown, LB, Duke. The junior was in on 10 tackles including two for losses and one sack to share ACC linebacker of the week honors.