File photo by Chris Baird
Duke looks to clinch a second straight winning season today.
It's a rare fall Saturday when there's no Division I football game in the Triangle, but today is one of those days.
And of the area's four teams, still no one can say how the seasons of three will be perceived at the end. And all four are underdogs.
No. 24 Duke (6-1, 2-1 ACC) is going to have another happy finish barring a monumental collapse.
But UNC (4-4, 2-2), N.C. State (4-4, 0-4) and N.C. Central (4-4, 3-1 MEAC) can all still go in either direction.
The Blue Devils will travel to Pittsburgh (4-4, 2-2) in a key ACC Coastal Division battle at 12 p.m. (ESPNU) at Heinz Field. The Tar Heels will visit Miami (5-3, 2-2) at 12:30 (WRAL), while the Wolfpack will go to Syracuse (3-5, 2-2) for a 3 p.m. contest (Fox Sports Carolinas). The Eagles visit Bethune-Cookman (6-2, 3-1) at 4.
Duke at Pittsburgh
The Blue Devils come into the contest after clinching a bowl spot two weeks ago at Virginia. Pitt gave Duke a painful 58-55 loss in Durham last season.
“It’s good to get back into a game week," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "I thought last week our work was really good. We worked a lot on Duke. I
thought our coaches did a great job in that regard. We did get some good quality work on Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh poses a lot of challenges on both sides of the ball. They’re such a physical football team. The biggest thing for us is finding some consistency in all aspects. I think we’ve had - as we look at the season after the second open date - good
moments in kicking, defensively and offensively as well. The thing that we’ve got to do starting with this Saturday – and November is when you do it
– is be a consistent football team.'
Pitt leads the series 10-8, but last season's meeting was the teams' first since 1976. Duke is a three-point underdog.
UNC at Miami
The Tar Heels have won two straight including a 28-27 win at Virginia on Saturday. Their 2-4 start was better than last season's 1-5, and now they seem to have momentum. But the Hurricanes dealt the Tar Heels a crushing 27-23 defeat last season in Chapel Hill.
“I think (a one-point road win) helps the morale of your team, the confidence of your team if you want to use that word," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "I don’t think they’re lacking for confidence but I think of it just as a boost. You know that you didn’t play well, that you didn’t play as well as
you needed to play and you went on the road in the conference and in the league and you still found a way to win the football game. It reemphasizes that if you keep believing in each other and you keep playing hard eventually
something good will happen."
UNC leads the series 11-6. The Tar Heels are 15-point underdogs.
NCSU at Syracuse
State is still looking for its first ACC win in 13 tries under Dave Doeren. Syracuse beat the Wolfpack 24-10 last season in Raleigh.
"I think our week off was really beneficial, not just as a chance to get guys healthy," Doeren said. "It
was also a chance to go back and look at some things with the guys, positive things, things we can work on and get better. We were really able to do some fundamental work, with special teams -something we really don’t get a chance to work on during the season - and take a perspective to see where we’re at and reflect on where we are. I think you’ll see there is a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. A lot of guys are playing better and young guys are growing into the system."
The Wolfpack leads the series 6-1. State is a 3 1/2-point Oregon.
NCCU at Bethune-Cookman
Jerry Mack's team is one of six MEAC squads with just one conference loss, but is coming off a 42-14 romp over hapless Savannah State. Bethune-Cookman rolled the Eagles 38-14 last season in Durham..
"That was a really great win for our guys," Mack said. "They came prepared and executed the game plan to the best of their ability and that's all you can ask for. ... Bethune-Cookman is one of the top teams in the FCS. We have to do our part, but we definitely have our work cut out for us."
B-CU leads the series 4-1 including wins each of the past four seasons. The Dunkel Index calls the Eagles four-point underdogs.
Last week's three stars
1. Mack Hollins, WR, UNC. The sophomore caught TD passes of 57 and 63 yards in the upset.
2. Malcolm Bell, QB, NCCU. He threw for 287 yards and three TDs and rushed for 72 yards and two scores in the rout.
3. Marquise Williams, QB, UNC. He passed for 259 yards and two TDs while rushing for 49 yards and another score.