PREGAME CHATTER:Middle Tennessee was one of the first schools to notice Larry Fedora’s coaching talent. The current Tar Heels coach was an offensive coordinator at the school from 1999-2001. Memories aside, North Carolina is searching for its first victory of the season after spending the past nine days simmering over an up-and-down loss at No. 6 South Carolina on the season’s opening night. Middle Tennessee defeated Western Carolina, 45-24, last week.
WHAT IT MEANS: North Carolina needs an even performance and a victory before it goes into an early bye next week and then arguably the most difficult stretch of its schedule.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner. With three more scores, Renner can tie T.J. Yates for second (58) on the program’s alltime passing touchdowns list.
TIME: 12:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: WRAL/WRDU 106.1 F.M.
ODDS: North Carolina by 17.
PREGAME CHATTER:Well, the decision about the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback isn’t up for debate any more. Pete Thomas making his first career start tonight against upset minded Richmond, which dominated VMI last week and upset Duke two years ago, after starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell broke his foot in the season opener. N.C. State might see a demon from its past under center. Former Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco, who led the Cavaliers to a 33-6 victory against N.C. State, will be starting for Richmond.
WHAT IT MEANS: If first-year coach Dave Doeren wants to return to the bowl season, where he took Northern Illinois last year, the Wolfpack can’t leave wins on the table.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Freshman running back Matt Dayes exploded onto the scene with three touchdowns in the Wolfpack’s victory against Louisiana Tech.
TIME: 6 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPN3/WRAL 101.5-FM
ODDS: N.C. State by 23.
PREGAME CHATTER:Duke’s opening game went about as well as the Blue Devils could have hoped. Its two major questions, its defense and its running game, showed tons of promise in a 45-0 victory against N.C. Central. The defense earned a shutout – the school’s first since 1989 – and the offense ran for 257 yards. Better competition provides Duke one last chance to improve before its ACC opener next week.
WHAT IT MEANS: Like all games in which it is favored, this is a must-win for Duke’s bowl eligibility. All but one of Duke’s remaining opponents after this week made bowl games last season, and the lone team that didn’t, Virginia, is a conference road game. THE DIFFERENCE MAKER: Special teams. Memphis hasn’t played yet, so Duke hasn’t had a chance to see the Tigers’ full first team in action yet. With some uncertainty, the third phase becomes even more important. Jamison Crowder took a punt back for a touchdown last week and kicker Ross Martin looked good for Duke.
TIME: 4:30 p.m.
TV/RADIO: ESPN3.com/WTIB 103.7-FM
ODDS: Duke by 5.
– Jessie H. Nunery, Justin Hite & Nick Piotrowicz