METHODIST (1-3, 0-1 USAS) AT N.C. WESLEYAN (1-3, 0-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: The Battling Bishops must find some offense, or this promises to be another long season. N.C. Wesleyan is averaging 12.2 points per game so far in 2012, and has not scored more than 13 points in a game yet. Its homecoming game against a struggling Methodist team seems like the perfect time to put some points on the board.
WHAT IT MEANS: For all intents and purposes, one of these teams is done in the USA South Conference after today. 1-1 after two games still allows for some hope, as most of the schedule is to come. It usually takes at least six wins to win the conference, however, meaning an 0-2 mark likely can’t be overcome with five games to play.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. Wesleyan’s defensive backfield vs. Methodist wide receiver Vaughn Cross. Through four games, Cross already has caught 29 passes and six touchdowns. He’s been the lone bright spot on a sputtering offense, and the Bishops will have to account for him.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m.
TV: Live stream available on ncwcsports.com
PREGAME CHATTER: Is it possible that Florida State could clinch the Atlantic Division tonight? Well, not mathematically but beating their two biggest divisional rivals would put a seal on a conference championship appearance. Florida State beat Clemson two weeks ago. If trends hold true things don’t bode well for N.C. State, Florida State has won every game by at least 12 points. The Wolfpack’s one hope is that the game is in Raleigh, where N.C. State defeated Florida State two years ago. The Wolfpack will need the help because Florida State ranks in the top 10 in four major categories: Scoring offense, scoring defense, total defense and total offense.
WHAT IT MEANS: N.C. State’s hopes of contending for the ACC Championship will be decided tonight, while Florida State is out to prove it can win on the road in the conference. The Seminoles have played only once away from Doak Campbell Stadium.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. State run defense vs. Florida State’s running game. The Wolfpack’s run defense ranks 28th in the nation, the highest ranking of any statistical category for N.C. State. If the Wolfpack is going to pull off the upset, it’ll have to be perfect at what it does right – even if the Seminoles average 261 yards on the ground.
ODDS: Florida State by 12.5.
KICKOFF: 8 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPN2/ WRAL-FM 101.5
VA. TECH (3-2, 1-0 ACC) AT UNC (3-2, 0-1)
PREGAME CHATTER: Although North Carolina enters the contest looking up at Virginia Tech in the standings, there is optimism today in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won two straight games by double digits, including last week’s 66-0 laugher against Idaho. Meanwhile, the Hokies, the defending Coastal division champions, have not played well of late. They are not ranked in the AP Top 25 and have losses against unimpressive Big East teams (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati). North Carolina’s offense is pushing the pace and averages 43 points per contest.
WHAT IT MEANS: North Carolina needs to play as well in the conference as it has out of it.
KEY MATCHUP: North Carolina defensive front Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas is one of few playmakers on the Hokies’ offense, and his struggles this season have dimmed the usual optimism in Blacksburg, Va.
ODDS: North Carolina by 3.5.
KICKOFF: 12:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: WRAL/WRDU-FM 106.1
PREGAME CHATTER: The opponents are technically the same, it just doesn’t feel like it. A season ago, Virginia was challenging for the Coastal Division title while Duke was struggling with everybody. This year, it’s the Blue Devils who could be in first place in the Coastal Division after two weeks. Duke’s wins have come at a price, though: The Blue Devils could miss as many as six starters, including quarterback Sean Renfree, who is a game-time decision.
WHAT IT MEANS: Duke’s schedule becomes very difficult after today, and earning the six wins the Blue Devils need to make a bowl game for the first time since the 1994 season hinges on a victory against Virginia. In the next month, Duke has trips to Virginia Tech and No. 3 Florida State, and home contests with North Carolina and No. 15 Clemson.
KEY MATCHUP: Duke’s offensive line vs. Virginia linebacker Steve Greer. Greer leads the team in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss, and can be a menace if Duke lets him. He must be accounted for at all times.
ODDS: Duke by 1.
KICKOFF: 3 p.m.
RADIO: WTIB-FM 103.7
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz