Duke (4-3, 2-2) at Carolina (3-4, 2-2)
Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill
3:30 p.m., RSN (PxP: Tom Werme; Analyst: James Bates; Sideline: Kelsey Wingert)
BetOnline odds: Carolina -3.5 | O/U: 53.5
The Two-Sentence Drill
Carolina looks to bounce back from a crushing loss in a must-win battle for the Victory Bell. A win means new life in the Coastal and a loss might throw a wrench in reaching a bowl game.
Carolina can win if...
- It learns from what happened last week in Blacksburg. There were chances to go up big in the first half and chances to put it away in the fourth quarter before the near-misses in overtime. Good teams finish the job when there's blood in the water.
- The Tar Heels treat this like a rivalry game, and so far, everyone is saying the right things this week.
- Duke turns the ball over twice. Turnovers have told the story for the Blue Devils all season, as they've got 14 in their three losses and two in four victories. Easy enough.
- Sam Howell continues his hot play and good decision-making. He's over 700 yards with 9 TD/1 INT in the past two games. Solid all season, the freshman has become spectacular lately, and he's made big plays without taking risks.
- Someone in the stable of running backs gets hot. It was Javonte Williams at Georgia Tech and, last week, Michael Carter for the first half. Antonio Williams is healthier than he's been in a while and could see a few more carries.
- The secondary is better than it was at Virginia Tech. A blown coverage resulted in a TD and soft coverage resulted in a few big plays for the Hokies. Injuries have taken a toll, but the Tar Heels are better than they showed at times in Blacksburg.
Carolina won't win if...
- The offensive line picks up where it left off at Virginia Tech, where the rushing attack went from 116 yards in the first half to 27 yards in the second. Josh Ezeudu takes over at left guard, and Carolina's coaches want more physicality up front.
- It allows the disappointment of the six-overtime loss to linger. Yes, the path got tougher in the Coastal, and yes, it had multiple chances to win the game. Doesn't matter now, and as wild as the Coastal has been this season, this thing is a long way from over.
- The energy is lacking early as it was against Appalachian State and Wake Forest. Carolina's roster has more recruiting stars than both of those teams, and the Tar Heels looked like they knew it and expected to cruise. Duke has won five of the past seven in the series despite Carolina having more highly-rated recruits.
- Quentin Harris is given all day in the pocket. Duke does an excellent job of protecting the quarterback and Mack Brown is demanding more pressure from his team. Given the importance of turnovers, it'll be imperative for Carolina to make him uncomfortable.
- Duke gets its running game going, as the Blue Devils are averaging 216.7 rushing yards in wins and 120.6 in losses. Slowing down Deon Jackson is key to winning the game.
What would a win mean for Carolina?
The Tar Heels pick up where they left off vs. Duke under Mack Brown, ending the Blue Devils' three-game winning streak.
More importantly, they'd also be back to life in the Coastal Division while also knocking a rival out of the running. Nice little Saturday.
Next Saturday's game vs. Virginia is already sold out, but the environment would certainly get a boost for the high-stakes primetime kickoff.
What would a loss mean for Carolina?
The first four-game losing streak to Duke since the 1950's would essentially eliminate Carolina from contention in the Coastal Division, and suddenly, even reaching a bowl game would be an uphill climb as the Tar Heels would need to win three of four down the stretch.
In the Footprint
Miami (3-4, 1-3) at Pitt (5-2, 2-1), 12 p.m. (ESPN)
Syracuse (3-4, 0-3) at Florida State (3-4, 2-3), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Virginia (5-2, 3-1) at Louisville (4-3, 2-2), 3:30 p.m. (ACC Network)
Boston College (4-3, 2-2) at Clemson (7-0, 5-0), 7:30 p.m. (ACC Network)