File photo by Kim Kellam
N.C. State's Jacoby Brissett escapes a tackle against Florida State. The Wolfpack's No. 50 is Tony Adams.
The magic number remains six.
That's the number of wins an FBS football team needs to play in a bowl game, and for any college football team to assure it won't have a losing regular-season record.
So far only one Triangle team has made it, as Duke (8-1, 4-1 ACC) is assured a winning season and a bowl game and is still in the race for the ACC's Coastal Division championship.
That race means every game is a "must" win for the Blue Devils, and actually every game left on the schedule is a must win for every Triangle Division I team as well.
All three ACC teams are at home today.
The underrated No. 19 Blue Devils will host disappointing Virginia Tech (4-5, 1-4) at noon (ESPNU). UNC (4-5, 2-3) will host Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-3) at 12:30 in a game between teams desperately seeking bowl spots. And N.C. State (5-5, 1-5) will qualify for a bowl if the Wolfpack can repel Wake Forest (2-7, 0-5) at 3 p.m.
N.C. Central (5-5, 4-2) visits Norfolk State (4-6, 4-2) at 2.
In an upset, all four local teams are favored to win.
Duke vs. Virginia Tech
The Blue Devils know they're going bowling somewhere, but their eyes are on a second straight trip to the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 6 in Charlotte.
Coming off the 27-10 victory at Syracuse, Duke has won four straight games and hasn't lost at home. And one of Coach David Cutcliffe's signature wins was the 13-10 result last season in Blacksburg.
"We are playing a familiar foe and one that we have the deepest respect for," Cutcliffe said. "It's been the benchmark for us. We've had to challenge ourselves to raise our level, and that's what we've aimed for is what level the intensity and physicality that Virginia Tech plays with. So we know it's a huge challenge, and our guys are working hard in hopes that they can find a way that they can match that and make it a four-quarter game, and see if we can find a way to come out on top."
Tech leads the series 13-8, but Duke is a 5 1/2-point favorite today.
UNC vs. Pittsburgh
Today's contest is the Tar Heels' last of the regular season in which they won't be playing an opponent that thinks of UNC as its be-all, end-all archrival.
And the season can go either way. It's not impossible to see Larry Fedora's club beating Pitt, Duke and N.C. State. And it's not impossible to see Larry Fedora's club losing to Pitt, Duke and N.C. State.
UNC won 34-27 at Heinz Field last year, but the Tar Heels are coming off a 17-point drubbing at Miami two weeks ago.
"There were not a lot of good things coming out of that Miami game," Fedora said. "So the things that we took out of it were the things that we needed to change and what we need to do better. So going into the bye week, we spent a lot of time on the things that we felt like we needed to improve on, and there were a lot of areas. So we were really back to the basics and worked a lot of guys. At the same time trying to get some of the guys that had the majority of the reps in the season, we tried to get them a little bit of rest, to be fresh during these last three games."
The Tar Heels, who lead the series 5-3, are 2 1/2-point favorites.
N.C. State vs. Wake Forest
The Wolfpack had a chance to clinch a bowl seven days ago at home against Georgia Tech, but fell by 33 points.
Today will be the 118th meeting in the series, which the Wolfpack leads 63-38-6. Wake won in Raleigh in 2006, the only time that has happened since 1984 in a series that has been contested every year since 1910.
"We're excited for an in-state rivalry game against Wake and a team that plays very sound football, a well-coached football team, and coming off a really good game with Clemson," State coach Dave Doeren said. "Obviously, it's going to be a competitive game. Any time you're in a rivalry game, records don't matter. We're going to get their best, and they're going to get our best. It's going to be an exciting game to try to become bowl eligible, and looking forward to getting our seniors ready to play at home."
Wake won 28-13 in Winston-Salem last season, but State is a 17-point favorite.
N.C. Central at Norfolk State
Jerry Mack still has his eyes on a winning season in his first season at the Eagle helm, but NCCU will have to win today and then pull an upset in its home finale against uber-rival North Carolina A&T to make it happen.
The Eagles have solid momentum after a 47-13 homecoming rout of Hampton.
NCCU leads the series with Norfolk, which was irregularly contested when both teams were in the CIAA, 6-5.
"We did a great job putting together four quarters of a football game (against Hampton)," Mack said. "Right now we're in a position to fight for seven wins. We're still not out of the hunt to get a playoff bid. We want these seniors to go out as the guys who started something."
The Eagles, who won 24-13 last season in Durham, are 7 1/2-point favorites.
Last week's three stars
1. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke. The senior was ACC specialist of the week after a 52-yard punt return for a TD, also catching nine passes for 58 yards.
2. Mykael Martin, DB, NCCU. The freshman was named MEAC special teams player of the week after returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a touchdown.
3. Will Monday, P, Duke. The junior won the national Ray Guy award after punting seven times with six fair catches and the other downed at the Syracuse 1.