PREGAME CHATTER: Aside from the week-long fanfare and the large crowd expected to descend on the Rocky Mount Athletics Complex this afternoon, this game means something. Both St. Augustine’s and Elizabeth City State are expected to compete near the top of the CIAA’s Southern and Northern divisions, respectively. St. Augustine’s is fresh off a solid 38-22 victory against Bowie State, while Elizabeth City State edged Fayetteville State, 20-13. Both teams are capable of putting up points, so the scoreboard operator might be busy.
WHAT IT MEANS: A chance for both teams to win in front of extended fan bases and assert themselves in an early race for CIAA supremacy.
KEY MATCHUP: Elizabeth City State secondary vs. St. Augustine’s wide receivers. Not only do the Vikings have to worry about All-CIAA wideout Tyron Laughinghouse, but also the league’s wide receiver of the week – Jermaine Jones. Jones hauled in 120 receiving yards and a touchdown last week. Expect to see the ball thrown a bit today by the Falcons.
KICKOFF: 4 p.m.
PREGAME CHATTER: It has been four years since these schools last played each other, and each began the 2012 season on much different paths. Miami was picked to finish near the bottom of the ACC, while the Wolfpack was a dark horse favorite. Yet, here both teams are – with identical records. In the midst of turmoil, Al Golden has the Hurricanes undefeated after two conference games with Miami’s lone loss coming to highly ranked Kansas State. N.C. State notably stumbled out of the gate, but has since used a few cupcakes to find its lost mojo.
WHAT IT MEANS: These next two weeks might define the conference season for N.C. State. After today’s trip to Miami, the Wolfpack welcomes Florida State next week. Miami is trying to win three games for the first time since 2009 after being one of the more dominant programs in college football.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. State’s offensive line vs. Miami’s defensive line. This isn’t a battle of daunting units – much more of the opposite. The Wolfpack ranks 113rd in sacks allowed and 83rd in rush offense. Miami is no better than 94th in those opposing categories – run defense and sacks. Someone has to win.
KICKOFF: 12 p.m.
ODDS: Miami by 3.5
TV/RADIO: ESPNU/WRAL-FM 101.5
PREGAME CHATTER: Go ahead and have your potato jokes ready. This game should be a laugher, too. North Carolina plays host to winless Idaho in what is a warmup prior to next week’s game against Virginia Tech.
WHAT IT MEANS: Not much, at all. The only thing that can come from this game for North Carolina is injury or embarassment.
KEY MATCHUP: North Carolina against itself. If the Tar Heels come out sharp mentally, they’ll be in cruise control by halftime.
KICKOFF: 3:30 p.m.
ODDS: North Carolina by 23.5
TV/RADIO: RSN/WRDU-FM 106.1
PREGAME CHATTER: The conference opener for Duke comes against their most similar opponent. Even though the schools are similar in enrollment, academic merit and location, Wake Forest has run the show on the field, winning the past 12 meetings against Duke. This rivalry is normally a close game, but Duke hasn’t found a way to win many of those contests.
WHAT IT MEANS: This is a must-win game for the Blue Devils in their quest to make a bowl game. Trips to Virginia Tech, Florida State and Georgia Tech await, as does a home showdown with Clemson. If Duke is to obtain six victories, it has to have a win in Winston-Salem.
KEY MATCHUP: Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price vs. Duke’s secondary. Price and the Demon Deacons’ offense has been inconsistent, and in what figures to be a close game, his play will change the outcome. Price threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Chris Givens in 2011, and he likely will need another few clutch plays to beat Duke again.
KICKOFF: 12:30 p.m.
ODDS: Wake Forest by 4
TV/RADIO: ACC Network/WTIB-FM 103.7
PREGAME CHATTER: East Carolina can take away one of two things from its loss to in-state rival North Carolina. That it was beaten for all four quarters and never showed much signs of life, or that without a eight-play, two-touchdown spurt from North Carolina, that the Pirates were just one touchdown worse than a major conference opponent. The Pirates should believe the latter more and realize that they have lost to UTEP just once – although they’ve only met three times.
WHAT IT MEANS: After defeating Southern Miss in its conference opener, East Carolina has the inside track to the Conference USA East Division title and the championship game. They can’t lose it against an opponent that hasn’t had a winning season in seven years.
KEY MATCHUP: ECU quarterback Shane Carden vs. the UTEP secondary. Carden spent most of last week on his back and has yet to make the Pirates’ air attack what it was with Dominique Davis at the helm.
KICKOFF: 7 p.m.
ODDS: East Carolina by 5
TV/RADIO: WITN-TV Ch. 7/WNCT-FM 107.9
PREGAME CHATTER: Both sides have been floundering recently, but none of that matters now. The conference season will begin for both teams today, and with it comes an opportunity to begin 1-0 in the USA South Conference. LaGrange has been blown out in all three contests, losing by an average margin of nearly 40 points per game. N.C. Wesleyan has been tough to read, beating a solid Ohio Northern team in Week 1, then losing to an NAIA team the following week. Coming off a 69-6 loss to No. 8 Salisbury last week, the Battling Bishops will be out to prove they’re the team from their first game, not their past two.
WHAT IT MEANS: Don’t be fooled by the timing. This is an elimination game. One of these teams could upset its way into conference contention, but both of them can’t. An 0-1 start to the USA South schedule will hamper someone’s hopes.
KEY MATCHUP: N.C. Wesleyan quarterbacks John Jackson and Laron Ellerbe against each other. Jackson, a senior, and Ellerbe, a freshman, have split time almost equally thus far. Jackson’s passing numbers are slightly better, while Ellerbe has a slight edge running the football. Now that the games matter, N.C. Wesleyan must find its answer under center sooner rather than later.
KICKOFF: 1 p.m.
- Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz