Saturday a pivotal day for area college football teams | Sports

Saturday a pivotal day for area college football teams

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Duke will try to stay perfect at home this afternoon. - CHRIS BAIRD
  • Chris Baird
  • Duke will try to stay perfect at home this afternoon.

The Triangle's college football season is passing its halfway point, and exactly how the season is unfolding for the local Division I squads is coming into focus.

Duke is having a second straight very good season and could play in some really interesting December games if it keeps winning.

And N.C. Central, which has yet to lose to an historically black college this season, still has a shot at the MEAC championship.

But N.C. State coach Dave Doeren is still looking for his first ACC win, and UNC's Larry Fedora needs to get things turned around quickly if the Tar Heels want to make another bowl trip.

Today's contests present some pretty big challenges all around, with two teams at home and two on the road.

Duke (5-1, 2-1 ACC), which somehow still is not in the Top 25 after a huge 31-25 win at Georgia Tech seven days ago, will host Virginia (4-2, 2-0) in a battle for first place in the Coastal Division at 12:30 p.m. (WRAL). The other home game is at 7 (ESPNU), with UNC (2-4, 0-2) entertaining Virginia Tech (4-3, 1-2) at Kenan Stadium.

NCCU (3-3, 2-0 MEAC) will go to Morgan State (3-3, 2-1) at 1 p.m., while N.C. State (4-3, 0-3) will visit Louisville (5-2, 3-2) at 3:30 (FOX Sports Carolinas).

Duke vs. Virginia

The winner of this one will take the inside track to win the division and play for the ACC championship.

Duke beat Virginia 35-22 on the road last season.

"We're playing a Virginia team that is not only playing really well right now, they've played really well all season long," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "All six ballgames, and they're playing really well in all three phases. They are a very good football team defensively, very good, a very good football team in the kicking game. They're well coached in both phases. They're extremely well coached and talented, have playmakers everywhere on the offensive side of the football, so they are a huge challenge. We've got to change gears a little bit going from playing an option offense into a completely different style of offense again, so we've worked very hard at trying to make that transition work. This is a huge challenge for us. We're going to have to play as good as we can play in all three phases to have an opportunity to win this football game."

Virginia leads the series 33-32. The Blue Devils are three-point favorites.

UNC vs. Georgia Tech 

The Tar Heels gave Notre Dame a scare in South Bend seven days ago, but are on a four-game losing streak.

Tech won 28-20 in Atlanta last season and has won 14 of the last 16 meetings.

"I'm sure that our defense is on the field more than their defense is on the field," Fedora said. "Part of that is the styles of offense that you run. I don't think that they are necessarily trying to slow the game down. It's just what they do. They're still trying to score on every play. I mean, they probably have two or three play scoring drives just like everybody else. They're probably more methodical. They're going to pick up four or five yards a carry. They're going to move the chains, which is going to run the clock, which will keep their defense off the field. ... When you're out there, you still control whether those chains keep moving or not, and you've got to get off the field."

Tech leads the series 28-18-3. Vegas odds have the teams rated even.

NCCU at Morgan State

The Eagles have won two straight MEAC games including a huge upset at South Carolina State, and could become serious contenders for the title with a road win today.

Morgan State, which will celebrate homecoming, won 34-22 last season in Durham.

"It's a quality opponent," NCCU coach Jerry Mack said. "They do a great job. They're playing with a lot of momentum and they're hot right now. They spread you out a little bit and give themselves more lanes to run through. Our guys are playing at a high level, and that showed last week at South Carolina State."

The Bears lead the series 23-13-2. The Dunkel Index has the Eagles as two-point favorites.

N.C. State at Louisville

The Wolfpack wants to go to a bowl game after missing one last season, and could give its chances massive help with an upset win today.

Louisville leads the series 3-1, but this will be their first meeting as ACC opponents.

"We're excited about the opportunity to play a great Louisville team for their homecoming," Doeren said. "They have a great defense - No. 1 in the country, No. 1 rushing defense - so it's just a huge challenge for our football team. We're excited about that opportunity, and Coach (Bobby) Petrino is a great coach, great play caller. Defensively trying to match up against his offense and two great tailbacks, just a great opportunity for our football team, and looking forward to going down there and giving it everything we have."

The Wolfpack beat the Cardinals 31-24 win in the 2011 Belk Bowl. State is a 17 1/2-point underdog.

Last week's three stars

1. Andre Clarke, RB, NCCU. Clarke rushed for 144 yards and three TDs in the upset win at SCSU. He averaged 10.3 yards per carry and was named MEAC offensive player of the week.

2. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke. Cash had two second-half takeaways against Miami, a fumble recovery that started a 46-yard touchdown drive and a 23-yard interception return to set up another TD.

3. Zachary Giles, OG, NCCU. Giles graded out at 95 percent as the Eagles generated a whopping 517 yards total offense.

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