Duke comes into the contest sporting an 8-2 (4-2) record with a chance to take control for the ACC Coastal once and for all. If the Blue Devils win out, they’ll head to South Florida for an ACC championship rematch with Florida State. They had a disappointing loss last week against Virginia Tech in a game that saw them outgain the Hokies, possess the ball for longer, and pick up more first downs. However, 3 turnovers and 2 missed field goals led to a loss. Duke will look to re-establish the running game this week against a Tar Heel team that allowed 220 rushing yards to standout Pitt RB James Conner last week.
The Tar Heels also have something to play for in this one. Not only is it a rivalry game, but UNC is currently sitting at 5-5, needing to win at least one of their last 2 games to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately for UNC, their defense comes into this game ranking dead last in the ACC, allowing 512 yards per game. On the bright side, they have forced 20 turnovers this season, at least one in every game, and with Duke having been sloppy with the ball last week, that could be what keeps the Tar Heels in the game. Duke only has 9 turnovers this season, but 6 of those have come in their 2 losses. Clearly keeping control of the ball will be a big factor Thursday night.
Another problem for the Tar Heels defense will be matching up with the skill position players of the Blue Devils. Jamison Crowder is having another good season with 767 yards and 4 TD’s, and has been historically good against UNC. Combine that with the three headed monster in the backfield of Shaun Wilson, Shaquille Powell, and Josh Snead, and the Heels are going to have their hands full.
UNC does enter this game with momentum, having won 3 of their last 4. Due to their lack of defense they’ve had to win by outscoring people, and have done well, ranking in the top 25 in the nation in both points per game and passing yards. Marquise Williams is the offense for the Heels and will have to have a big game Thursday night for UNC to pull off the upset. In the win against Pitt, Williams not only threw for 276 yards and a TD, but ran for 122 and 3 TD’s. If he has another showing like that, the Tar Heels may be able to leave Durham with a win.
Prediction- It is a rivalry game, and anything could happen, but most of the time the better team will win at home. Duke is going to be angry after that bad loss to VT and I expect them to come on firing against that UNC defense. Duke 45, UNC 31.