Today is a very big day for N.C. State football.

And it’s very important for Duke, while it’s still meaningful for N.C. Central.

UNC has the day off before its uphill stretch run.

The Wolfpack (5-4, 1-4 ACC) picked up its first conference win for second-year coach Dave Doeren last week in a squeaker over Syracuse. And if State can become the third Triangle team to beat No. 24 Georgia Tech (7-2, 4-2) today at 12:30 (WRAL) at Carter-Finley Stadium, the Wolfpack is going bowling!

NCCU (4-5, 3-2 MEAC), which is still looking for a winning season, plays its annual homecoming game against Hampton (2-7, 1-4) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.

And the No. 22 Blue Devils (7-1, 3-1 ACC) travel to the Carrier Dome to take on Syracuse (1-4, 3-6) at 12:30 (Fox Sports Carolinas) and continue their quest for a second straight Coastal Division crown.


N.C. State vs. Georgia Tech

State got its biggest win of the Doeren era by holding on for a 24-17 road win last week over the Orange. And the Wolfpack would certainly like to claim a mild homecoming upset before its final two regular-season contests against in-state rivals.

“We were excited to come home from a great road win for our team against a very opportunistic defense,” Doeren said. “We knew that taking the ball away for us defensively and protecting it against them offensively would be the key to win that game. Our key to victory was turnover margin and rushing offense versus rushing defense, and
when you break those two things down we had three takeaways in the football game which were huge.”

The Yellow Jackets lead the series 18-10, and have won on their last four trip to Raleigh, the most recent in 2011. Tech is a four-point favorite.

N.C. Central vs. Hampton

NCCU has won its only two home MEAC games under first-year coach Jerry Mack, and could finish above .500 by winning out. And homecoming is, as always, a really big deal.

“I thought our young men competed hard against Bethune-Cookman,” Mack said. “We just have to learn how to finish games and improve on that. I think we’re heading in the right direction. We’ve got to do a better job of running in critical situations as well as stopping the run. We still want to win seven football games and close the season on a winning note.”

Hampton leads the series 18-6, with the only NCCU win since 1983 coming two years ago in Durham. The Dunkel Index has the Eagles by five.

Duke at Syracuse

Duke will likely have to win out to play in its second straight ACC title game, but everything is headed in the right direction as the Blue Devils have won three straight. All their victories have been my seven points or less.

“Our focus has been on preparation,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Syracuse is an interesting team. They’ve got a lot of veteran players in the locker room. They’ve got some depth and they play a lot of people in a lot of areas on offense and defense. They’ve got some people that can run; this is another big, physical offensive and defensive front. They pose matchup challenges. I think they’re extremely well-coached. I’m impressed by what their coaches are getting done in every aspect. They’re good in the kicking game; they’ve got good specialists. It’s one of those games that I look at it and our team looks at it that you know you have to focus on Duke and our preparation.”

The Blue Devils have won their only two meetings with the Orange, but the last was in 1939. Duke is a 3 1/2-point favorite.

Last week’s three stars

1. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke. He caught nine passes for 165 yards and two TDs.

2. DeVon Edwards, DB, Duke. He had a 99-yard kickoff return for a TD and was in on 10 tackles.

3. Jacoby Brissett, QB, NCSU. He completed 20 of 32 passes for 186 yards and a TD.