N.C. CENTRAL (0-0) AT DUKE (0-0)
PREGAME CHATTER:Duke begins this year with a newfound confidence after making a bowl game last season for the first time in nearly 20 years, but all the drama has been on the other sideline.
N.C. Central fired coach Henry Frazier only 10 days ago following his arrest for violating a domestic violence protective order. In steps assistant Dwayne Foster as the Eagles’ interim coach, and his job preparing the team will be evident from the opening kickoff. It has been a tumultuous week for N.C. Central. It’s hard to believe the Eagles’ preparations for a superior opponent weren’t at least slightly disrupted.
WHAT IT MEANS: If one is measuring Duke’s season by its ability to make another bowl game, this is a must-win. Six wins will be tough to come by for the Blue Devils, even though the schedule-makers gave them a break by avoiding Florida State and Clemson. Duke will be the underdog more than it will be a favorite this season, so it must take advantage of the one “gimmie” game on the schedule.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Turnovers. N.C. Central’s hope lies in creating mistakes and capitalizing on them, something that didn’t happen in Duke’s 54-17 victory when the two teams met last season. The Blue Devils can score quickly and frequently, and the Eagles need a few cheap touchdowns if they’re going to keep pace.
TIME: 4 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPN3.com/WTIB 103.7-FM
ODDS: Duke by 35.
LA. TECH (0-0) AT N.C. STATE (0-0)
PREGAME CHATTER:The new era of football begins today in Raleigh. Dave Doeren has brought an offensive blend of Oregon and Wisconsin from Northern Illinois in an effort to give the Wolfpack a punch offensively. If that’s actually the case could be determined as early as tonight – although it’s more likely to only be disproved today. Doeren went 23-4 in his two season at Northern Illinois, but he’ll open his N.C. State tenure against a familiar name. Former East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, who made a stop at South Florida, will lead Bulldogs into Carter-Finley Stadium. Holtz won a pair of Conference USA titles at East Carolina.
WHAT IT MEANS: Starting off right will be key for the Wolfpack. The expectations might not be as high as last year’s squad, but N.C. State still is expected to beat Louisiana Tech.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: N.C. State’s starting quarterback, although that is yet to be determined. Doeren said he’ll choose between Arkansas graduate transfer Brandon Mitchell and Colorado State junior transfer Pete Thomas today. His choice will be important to successfully running the Wolfpack’s up-tempo offense.
TIME: 12:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: WRAZ-Ch. 50/WRAL 101.5-FM
ODDS: N.C. State by 14.5.
OLD DOMINION (0-0) AT EAST CAROLINA (0-0)
PREGAME CHATTER:The fourth season of coach Ruffin McNeill’s tenure begins tonight in Greenville, and it will be the first of three consecutive home contests for the football-crazed Pirates fans. Although the Pirates want to utilize their running backs more this season, expect the ball to be thrown plenty in this contest. Both East Carolina and Old Dominion use a spread offense, and Pirates quarterback Shane Carden has some new options at wide receiver with whom he is still developing a repoire.
WHAT IT MEANS: East Carolina shouldn’t have a tough task in earning a victory tonight. The importance of the game will be which players emerge at positions that have interchangeable parts.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Pirates quarterback Shane Carden, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, can give ECU a shot at victory each week.
TIME: 7 p.m.
TV/RADIO: Fox College Sports/WNCT 109.5-FM
ODDS: East Carolina by 17.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz