GAME NOTES: The 25th-ranked Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels will
have a quick turnaround, as the two teams square off in ACC action at Wallace
Wade Stadium on Thursday evening.
David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils were in the driver’s seat in the ACC’s Coastal
Division standings and actually jumped out to a 10-0 lead early against
Virginia Tech last Saturday. Unfortunately, Duke allowed the game to slip away
(17-16 loss) and in turn their stranglehold atop the divisional standings, as
the 4-2 Blue Devils are now two games in the win column behind 6-2 Georgia
Tech. However, it is Duke with the head-to-head tie-breaker, having already
beaten Georgia Tech on the road earlier in the year (31-25).
Cutcliffe knows his team let one get away against Virginia Tech.
“The things we pride ourselves in – taking care of the ball, no loss yardage
plays, no sacks didn’t happen. We left some points out on the field.”
Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels are further down the Coastal Division ladder with a
3-3 league ledger. However, North Carolina has won two of its last three games
and is knocking on the door of bowl eligibility. The team moved to an even 5-5
on the season with last Saturday’s 40-35 shootout win over Pittsburgh. The Tar
Heels are one win from bowl eligibility, but must face their top two rivals to
close out the season in Duke and NC State.
This marks the 101st edition of this longstanding rivalry. North Carolina
holds a 59-37-4 advantage all-time, but Duke has won the last two encounters,
It certainly wasn’t pretty as North Carolina had to come from behind to top
the Panthers last time out. Strong offensive showings have been the norm in
Chapel Hill this season, as UNC averages a steady 35.9 ppg on 430.6 yards of
Quarterback Marquise Williams is playing at an All-ACC level and is one of the
nation’s top dual threats. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior has completed an
impressive 63.2 percent of his passes, for 2,497 yards and 18 touchdowns,
while pacing the team on the ground as well, with 628 yards and 10 more
The passing game is helped by a steady line of contributors, highlighted by
Ryan Switzer (47 rec, 563 yds, 4 TDs), Mack Hollins (32 rec, 605 yds, 7 TDs),
Bug Howard (30 rec, 289 yds, 2 TDs) and Quinshad Davis (29 rec, 365 yds, 4
While the UNC offense has flourished, the UNC defense has languished. The Tar
Heels are 122nd nationally in both scoring defense (41.2 ppg) and total
defense (511.6 ypg), getting torched by both the run (228.2 ypg) and the pass
Junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer tops the team in tackles with 64 and has 4.5
TFL and two interceptions to his credit. Senior Norkeithus Otis (29 tackles,
3.0 sacks) and junior Jesse Rogers (7 tackles, 4.0 sacks) headline a limited
Duke is a nightmare matchup for a lot of teams, especially those with
struggling defenses. The Blue Devils have been able to put up some great
offensive numbers this season, averaging 32.9 ppg and just under 400 yards of
offense (396.1). The rushing attack has really been a strength this season,
with Duke averaging 193.7 ypg on a healthy 5.3 ypc.
Senior quarterback Anthony Boone has played well under center, completing 56.7
percent of his passes, for 1,970 yards and 14 TDs this year. It certainly
helps to have one of the ACC’s best ever receivers to throw to in senior
Jamison Crowder, who has 64 catches, for 767 yards and four TDs this season.
Fellow senior Issac Blackeney (34 rec, 397 yds, 5 TDs) has been a valuable
asset in the passing game as well.
There isn’t a workhorse back leading the way in the backfield. Instead, there
is quality depth led by Shaun Wilson (553 yds, 4 TDs), Shaquille Powell (410
yds, 2 TDs), Josh Snead (369 yds. 3 TDs).
Duke’s defense has had its share of success this season as well, with the team
ranked an impressive 11th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 18.1
ppg. While foes have been able to run against the Blue Devils (197.6 ypg),
they haven’t had great success passing the ball (192.1 ypg).
Senior linebacker David Helton has had a remarkable campaign thus far, topping
the team with 103 total tackles, with two sacks. Sophomore DB DeVon Edwards is
a close second with 91 stops, with two sacks, one INT and three forced fumbles
to his credit. Junior safety Jeremy Cash (89 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2
INTs, 3 FF) is another difference maker in the secondary.
Fedora was asked about the rivalry with Duke and the importance of reaching
the six-win requirement for bowl eligibility.
“I’ll be honest here, we haven’t even talked about a bowl game. We really
haven’t,” said Fedora. “I don’t have any doubt that our team is going to
prepare and be ready to play on Thursday. I really do, I believe that. I
believe that we will ready for that next one. For that, maybe it helps. We
plan on being in a bowl game. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t know if it
matters who we play, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”
If it comes down to a shootout, like most of North Carolina’s games have, the
Tar Heels will once again have a chance for victory. However, the Blue Devils
can ill-afford another slip up down the stretch and getting this one at home,
should tip the scales in Duke’s favor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 37, North Carolina 31