PREGAME CHATTER: Though Duke squandered a 20-point lead at Virginia Tech, the loss revealed a greater truth: The Blue Devils can’t run the ball consistently. Duke ran 29 times for 22 yards against the Hokies, which doesn’t bode well against North Carolina. The Tar Heels would love for this game to be decided in the air. The more plays the Tar Heels run, the more likely they are to win.
WHAT IT MEANS: Forget bragging rights, this is the first time in two decades this game has brought Coastal Division implications for both teams. Four teams in the division come into Week 8 with one loss, though a couple of teams can distance themselves from the field this week. Either the Blue Devils or Tar Heels will earn a big win and a bigger tiebreaker tonight.
KEY MATCHUP: Duke’s offensive line vs. North Carolina’s defensive line. For two reasons, the Blue Devils must win up front. First, time of possession is especially important in keeping North Carolina’s hurry-up offense on the sideline. Second, the Blue Devils’ running game often dictates whether they win. If they can run, even as a change of pace, they’re a much more dangerous team.
ODDS: North Carolina by 11.
KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPNU/Carolina: WRDU-FM (106.1); Duke: WTIB-FM (107.3)
PREGAME CHATTER: It’s hard to forget last season’s matchup between these two teams on either campus. Maryland blew – or N.C. State rallied from – a 27-point advantage in the second half. The game saved the Wolfpack’s bowl bid and continued the Terrapins melancholy season. There are some similarities this year though. N.C. State is facing Maryland in its game immediately following a ranked upset. N.C. State defeated Clemson the week before last year’s game and memorably knocked off Florida State two weeks ago.
WHAT IT MEANS: While it might sound strange to some, N.C. State controls its own destiny towards Charlotte and the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. The Wolfpack’s loss to Tennessee didn’t matter in that pursuit, and at the end of the day, neither did its loss to Miami.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. State defense vs. Maryland’s true freshman quarterback Perry Hills. Hills is gaining traction as his emergency season under center continues, but so is the N.C. State defense and its secondary. The Wolfpack shut out the Seminoles in the second half two weeks ago.
ODDS: N.C. State by 5.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPNU/WRAL-FM (101.5)
PREGAME CHATTER: If trends continue, this game doesn’t bode well for the Pirates, even though they are facing a UAB team that has yet to win an FBS game. East Carolina has swapped wins and losses every game this season, and after last week’s record-setting victory against Memphis that trend means it’s just about time for another defeat.
WHAT IT MEANS: East Carolina needs this game to remain in contention for the Conference USA east division title. Sitting one game behind Central Florida, after having already lost to the Golden Knights, East Carolina can’t afford to lose games its shouldn’t. This is one that they shouldn’t.
KEY MATCHUP: ECU quarterback Shane Carden vs. the UAB secondary. Carden has improved in every game this season, culminating in last week’s school-record five touchdown performance. The Blazers rank in the bottom half of the nation – and the conference – in passing defense.
ODDS: East Carolina by 4.
KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
TV/RADIO: WITN/WNCT-FM (107.9)
PREGAME CHATTER: The Bishops’ offense finally found its footing last week against Ferrum, though N.C. Wesleyan allowed 52 points on the way to its seventh straight loss in the USA South. The Bishops’ last victory in the conference came against the Pride on Oct. 15, 2011, though Greensboro, which comes into this game tied for first, is much improved this season.
WHAT IT MEANS: Growth can’t truly happen until a team starts competing, and N.C. Wesleyan hasn’t been in a game in the fourth quarter since Week 2. The Bishops first need to put themselves into place to challenge a conference opponent before they worry about beating one.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. Wesleyan’s defensive backfield vs. Greensboro quarterback Ryan Throndset. The USA South’s most prolific passer, Throndset leads the league in completions and yards, and is second in touchdowns and completion percentage. N.C. Wesleyan’s defensive backs are the team’s best position unit, however, and Throndset is capable of being baited: He has nine interceptions already.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m.
TV/RADIO: streaming live at ncwcsports.com.
– Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz