N.C. STATE (5-2, 2-1 ACC) AT NORTH CAROLINA (5-3, 2-2)
PREGAME CHATTER: What a difference one play makes. Last week, N.C. State had a happy trip home from Maryland after the Terrapins missed a last-second field goal that could have won the game. The miss put N.C. State in control of its own destiny in the Atlantic Division standings. Meanwhile, North Carolina could not stop Duke on a fourth down play, and the Tar Heels suffered a rare loss to the Blue Devils. This one is tough to call. N.C. State has won five straight meetings against North Carolina, including four of the past six at Kenan Stadium.
WHAT IT MEANS: North Carolina cannot win the league or advance to a bowl game. A loss today would likely render the remaining of the regular season meaningless for fans, who already have one eye on the basketball court.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. State defense vs. North Carolina running back Gio Bernard. Bernard is the Tar Heels’ most consistent playmaker, and with rain in the forecast this afternoon, he can expect more than his share of carries.
ODDS: North Carolina by 7.5.
KICKOFF: 12:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: WRAL/WRAL-FM 101.5
DUKE (6-2, 3-1 ACC) AT FSU (7-1, 4-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: No matter what happens against the Seminoles, the Blue Devils will be guaranteed no worse than a half-game out of first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division. That’s nice to hear for Duke, which has never beaten Florida State in 17 tries. No only has Duke never beaten Florida State – it has never even come close. The Seminoles have won every game between the two by at least 19 points, and this year they’re ranked No. 11 and have the second-ranked defense in the country.
WHAT IT MEANS: A win today would give Duke the inside track in the Coastal, though it isn’t necessary. For Florida State, though, a loss plus an N.C. State win would be devastating to their hopes of winning the Atlantic Division.
KEY MATCHUP: Duke’s offensive line vs. Florida State’s defensive line. The Seminoles have the best d-line in the ACC by a mile, though Duke must find a way to both run and keep quarterback Sean Renfree upright. Florida State leads the conference in run defense, total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss – and Duke lives off man-to-man matchups on the offensive line. They’ll need to play the game of their lives to win today.
ODDS: Florida State by 25.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPNU/WTIB-FM 103.7
NAVY (4-3) AT ECU (5-3, 4-1 C-USA)
PREGAME CHATTER: There’s no hiding what Navy will to today. The Midshipmen are going to run. It’s just a matter of whether East Carolina, which doesn’t have much deception either in its pass-first offense, can stop it. Last year, no one really stopped anyone as Navy rolled to a 76-35 victory, the most points allowed by ECU at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Navy is back atop the nation in rushing yards per game (13th) but the Pirates’ run defense is much improved, allowing just 123 yards per game on the ground.
WHAT IT MEANS: East Carolina is trying to become bowl eligible for the sixth time since 2006. The only year the Pirates missed the postseason during that span was last year by just one game.
KEY MATCHUP: East Carolina’s defense vs. the Navy triple option. If it’s not obvious already, East Carolina has to stop Navy’s rushing attack. Nobody runs the triple-option better than Navy, except maybe Georgia Tech.
ODDS: East Carolina by 4.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: WITN/ WNCT-FM 107.9
CNU (4-3, 3-1 USAS) AT NCWC (2-5, 1-3)
PREGAME CHATTER: There might not be a tougher Division III team to figure out than N.C. Wesleyan. After scoring 62 total points in their first five games, the Battling Bishops have scored 80 in the past two, including a two-season high of 45 points in last week’s win against Greensboro. Today will be a good measure of how far N.C. Wesleyan has come this season: Christopher Newport is the favorite to win the league.
WHAT IT MEANS: With three losses, the Bishops are all but removed from contention for winning the USA South, but this game still has merit. As N.C. Wesleyan continues to grow into a team they hope will one day be a conference champion, this would be a signature victory on the way there. For the Captains, the need is much more immediate. As part of a three-way tie for first place in the conference, Christopher Newport needs a win to keep pace. A loss to N.C. Wesleyan plus a LaGrange win all but eliminates the Captains.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. Wesleyan’s front seven vs. the Christopher Newport running game. The Captains are winning conference games on the ground, averaging more than 250 yards per game in USA South contests. The solution is simple for N.C. Wesleyan: Stop the run, stop the Captains.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m.
TV/RADIO: live stats available on ncwcsports.com
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz