It’s Week 2 of the college football season, and so far there haven’t been any major surprises for any of the local teams.
Things went pretty much according to form last Saturday, except that N.C. State had plenty of trouble from Georgia Southern in a 24-23 nailbiter. UNC finally escaped Liberty in a 56-29 result, while Duke walloped Elon 52-13 and East Carolina crushed N.C. Central 52-7 in Jerry Mack’s debut with the Eagles.
This time all four local teams are favored, and three of them are at home. The Eagles host old CIAA rival Elizabeth City State at 5 p.m. at O’Kelly Riddick Stadium, while the Wolfpack entertains Old Dominion (1-0) at 6 p.m. at Carter-Finley and No. 21 UNC squares off with San Diego State (1-0) of the Mountain West at 8 (ESPNews) at Kenan. Duke will visit Sun Belt member Troy (0-1) at 7.
It’s the season opener for the Vikings, who are picked eighth in the CIAA. The Eagles will see if transfer QB Quinn Billerman can get things going against a weaker opponent than East Carolina.
“We came out ready to play against East Carolina,” Mack said. “I was proud of the effort. … This week I’m looking for our defense to be more detailed for four quarters. I’m looking for our offense to execute plays and eliminate penalties. I think if we can clean up the small things going forward we can be a really good football team.”
NCCU leads the series, which was last contested in an 18-10 Eagle win at Giants Stadium, 19-8. Atomic Football says Central by 17.
The Wolfpack sputtered in the first half last week as new QB Jacoby Brissett found his bearings. ODU, which beat Hampton 41-28 last week, should not provide as much of a challenge as did Georgia Southern.
“We had a good comeback win over Georgia Southern,” State coach Dave Doeren said. “We played 20 freshmen in the game, two wore red-shirts so a lot of young guys got their first action. That was good for them. I think a lot of them were nervous early and settled in as the game went on. I was happy with how they played in the second half; we didn’t give up a touchdown second half on defense. We just need to start faster going forward and play a really good team this week on offense, a team that has probably one of the best quarterbacks we’ll play. Taylor Heinicke has 11,000 yards in his career, and they have a really good passing game.”
It’s the teams’ first meeting. The Vegas line says State by 17.
SDSU is the best squad to square off with a Triangle Division I team this week. The Aztecs ripped visiting underdog Northern Arizona in their season opener.
“They are a West Coast style of offense and they run the ball extremely well,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said of the Aztecs. “They’re very physical when they run the ball, and they do a great job with their play-action passes. Defensively, just the chaos that they try to create with their movement, their blitzes, all the different things that they do on that side of the ball will be an issue, also, or as a concern to see how our guys will handle it. They returned the punt for a touchdown in the opening game. They did some nice things in their special teams, so we’ll have to match them up.”
UNC won the teams’ only previous meeting 20-13 in the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl. The Vegas line says UNC by 16.
The Blue Devils struggled before gaining a must-win victory over the Trojans last season, but it has been a long time since Duke has been favored and won. Troy fell 48-10 at Alabama-Birmingham in its opener.
“It’s a big challenge knowing the history of Troy and the history of (coach) Larry Blakeney,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s a great place to go play, great atmosphere and deep, deep football tradition. I think Coach Blakeney and his staff do about as good a job of getting everybody in the building. Obviously they’ve put together a career that’s just incredible at that institution. You don’t see it that often at all any more, and you haven’t seen anybody do it any better. They’re going to play well, I know coming off a loss. That is the history of what they’ve done.”
Duke won 38-31 last season in Durham in the teams’ first meeting. The Vegas line says Duke by 19.
Three stars of the week
1. Dominique Green, S, UNC. Green recovered three fumbles – part of six turnovers the Tar Heels forced – and returned one for a 20-yard TD.
2. Anthony Boone, QB, Duke. The Blue Devils’ stalwart starter completed 22 of 33 passes for 247 yards and four TDs without an interception.
3. Jacoby Brissett, QB, N.C. State. In his first game as a starter for the Wolfpack, he completed 28 of 40 passes for 291 yards and three TDs with one pickoff in the comeback win.