It’s Rivalry Week, Part II.
All across the country, about half of the biggest college football teams are playing their most despised rivals. And with cooperation from the SEC, the ACC is right in on the act today.
It was always the day for those big cross-conference rivalry games like South Carolina at Clemson and Georgia Tech at Georgia and Florida at Florida State. And now there’s Kentucky at Louisville. And in the conference there was Virginia at Virginia Tech last night.
It’s the same deal in the Triangle, where N.C. State (6-5, 2-5 ACC) will visit UNC (6-5, 4.3) – with both teams already guaranteed bowl trips. Duke (8-3, 4-3) will try to improve on its bowl standing – for the third straight year – when the Blue Devils host long-time in-state rival Wake Forest (3-8, 1-6.)
N.C. Central’s season is over, but it ended up on a great note last week as the Eagles held off uber-rival North Carolina A&T to earn a 7-5 winning season and a share of the MEAC title for first-year coach Jerry Mack.
UNC vs. N.C. State
This one isn’t quite as desperate as it looked a few weeks ago, when it seemed possible both would come into the contest 5-6 with a spot in an un-glamorous, far away bowl on the line looked possible. The mega-fun scenario now could even have UNC taking on South Carolina in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte while the Wolfpack squares off with East Carolina in the Military Bowl in Annapolis.
But there’s a lot of football yet to be played, and the winner of today’s contest at Kenan Stadium (12:30, WRAL) will have bragging rights for 12 months.
UNC has won two straight in the series and leads it 65-32-6, but most of that gap was built in a 34-5-6 Tar Heel run before I was born.
UNC’s Larry Fedora is in his seventh year as a head coach and has never had a losing season.
“You know, in all of our games, we try to keep them, like, it’s the next game,” Fedora said. “But when we get down to a rivalry game, it’s not just another game. It’s different. It really is. It’s different because of the rivalry. I mean, because of your fan base and the pride in your state and all those things. So I think that you have to put a little bit more into it.”
State’s Dave Doeren had to suffer through a 3-9 nightmare in his first campaign with the Wolfpack last season, but looks to get a jewel in Season Two with a minor road upset over the Tar Heels today.
“We’re just excited to be in rivalry week and play against our rival at their place,” Doeren said. “It’s a great 104-game rivalry, just 30 minutes away from each other. Both teams are at six wins, fighting to earn their seventh. I’m excited for our guys. It’s been a good week of practice, and to have Thanksgiving and to be able to celebrate that with each other in such a big game, and have a chance with the bye week to get a couple of guys back from injuries. So we look forward to the opportunity.”
The Tar Heels are 6 1/2-point favorites.
Duke vs. Wake Forest
The Blue Devils may lead the series 55-37-2 but they were having a terrible time with the Deacons before David Cutcliffe arrived on the scene.
When they face off tonight at Wallace Wade Stadium (7 p.m., ESPNU) Duke will be defending a two-game winning streak against the Deacons, but Wake has won 12 of the last 14. But the Deacons, of course, have absolutely nothing to lose.
“First of all, it’s Senior Day, a great celebration of a lot of guys that are playing a lot of good football for us,” Cutcliffe said. “Certainly, I’m very proud of what those guys have accomplished and very proud of who they are. We’re playing a team, Wake Forest, who plays extremely well. So we (try) our best to just get better each time we go on the practice field. Hopefully, that computes into how we play.”
The Blue Devils are 18 1/2-point favorites.
In an aside …
I have for several years been a voter on the BoxtoRow.com football poll, one of several that ranks Historically Black College teams.
Because of ostensible “upsets” all over the board for the last few weeks, my ranking and I am sure many others has looked like scrambled eggs every Monday for several weeks.
And everyone else seems to be confused as well, as no fewer than six teams received No. 1 votes from the 17-member panel. There are still five teams playing who can win the whole thing and I have decided exactly what I will do under each circumstance.
(1) If MEAC champion Morgan State wins the NCAA Division I (FCS) championship, I will vote for the Bears as HBCU national champions.
(2) If Morgan State loses and CIAA champion Virginia State wins the NCAA Division II championship, I will vote for the Trojans as HBCU national champions.
(3) If both Morgan State and Virginia State lose, my No. 1 vote will go to the SWAC champions.
Last week’s three stars
1. Marquise Williams, QB, UNC. The junior completed 18 of 27 passes for 276 yards and two scores, rushing 21 times for 98 yards and two more in the 45-20 romp at Duke.
2. Malcolm Bell, QB, N.C. Central. The sophomore completed 16 of 23 passes for 135 yards and a TD and rushed 15 times for 74 yards and a score in the Eagles’ 21-14 upset of the Aggies.
3. Nazair Jones, DT, UNC. The freshman was in on six tackles including 2 1/2 for losses, forced a fumble and batted down a pass.