When: 12:00 p.m. (EST)
Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium
Line: UNC by 5
With a trip to the ACC Championship on the line, it’s fitting that Duke has to get past its most hated rival to accomplish their goal. When Duke and North Carolina square off the game means much more than wins and losses. The two schools are a mere 8 miles apart on the famous Tobacco Road and the hatred between the two schools and their fan bases has existed for many years. If you win the game, you get bragging rights for an entire year while the other teams fan base is in agony and has to listen to all of the trash talk. There is absolutely no bigger rivalry in all of sports. The keys to the game will be whether or not Duke’s recently efficient defense can stop North Carolina’s extremely potent offense which scored 80 points in three quarters last weekend, albeit against Old Dominion.
Starting quarterback Bryn Renner has been injured the past couple weeks and back up Marquise Williams has done a fantastic job filling in. Marquise is a much better athlete and can run the ball which is important for North Carolina does offensively. They run a spread offense and William’s ability to make plays outside of the pocket with his arm and legs has been key for the Tar Heels as of late. The real stud offensively for UNC is tight end Eric Ebron, who has already declared he will be leaving for the NFL draft. He is a huge target with great hands that leads the team in receiving. Although they struggled earlier in the year, Carolina’s defense has played well of late, especially the defensive line. Led by senior defensive end Kareem Martin the line has been much more disruptive and has gotten to the quarterback a lot more frequently. UNC allowed 10 passing touchdowns in its first 5 games, but in the past 7 they have only allowed four. A huge X factor today might be punt returner Ryan Switzer, who in his past 3 games has an amazing four punt returns for touchdowns.
Duke’s season has been magical thus far. With wins over Miami and Virginia Tech, this team knows they can beat elite athletes and defenses. The Blue Devils are a cast who believes in each other and the team philosophy. They play with a sense of purpose every Saturday and know they can take nobody for granted. It has been amazing to see the transformation of the Duke football program under coach David Cutcliffe, who has established a winning culture in Durham. Quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette may just be the best quarterback duo in all of the country. Jamison Crowder is one of the best players in the country at his position and has glue for hands. Senior defensive back Ross Cockrell is the leader of the defense, some of the freshman talk about him as another coach on the field. Duke has had countless 4th quarter comebacks this year, the team never gives up no matter the score. The veteran leadership on this team makes them special and helps the team believe they can go out and not only play but beat anyone on any given Saturday. This upcoming Saturday when Duke heads into Chapel Hill for all the marbles, I expect something special to happen for our beloved Blue Devils.
Duke and North Carolina have been impressive of late. Each team seems to be peaking at the right time so the matchup on Saturday should be a classic. I picked Duke to lose to Miami simply because I believed the athletes the Hurricanes had on both sides of the ball would be too much for Duke to handle. UNC has the better athletes, they are at home and they want to stop their hated rivals from heading to Charlotte. That being said, I think Duke’s defense has improved drastically, their leadership is tough to match, and offensively I do not believe they can be stopped. I predict Duke goes into Chapel Hill and beats Carolina 34-30. LET’S GO DUKE!