Jamison Crowder and the rest of the Duke offense will need to play like they did in the first quarter against Virginia Tech. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke vs. UNC
What: The victory bell
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham
Line: UNC by 10.5
TV/radio: ESPNU/102.9 FM
What they're saying nationally about Duke:
ESPN's Heather Dinich: At the midpoint of the season, there’s no question Duke coach David Cutcliffe should be the leading candidate for ACC Coach of the Year. You could make an argument for several coaches in the league, but none of them have had to overcome as many deficiencies in talent, facilities and tradition as Cutcliffe has over the past four years.
History has been working against the Duke program for a long, long time -- so long that it has been hard for many ACC fans to come to terms with the fact that Duke (5-2, 2-1 ACC) could still win the Coastal Division.
CBS Sports' Shawn Krest: The Blue Devils have left the state of North Carolina twice this season and given up 91 points. That's 11 fewer than they've allowed in five games in the state. The North Carolina game is always huge because of the rivalry, but this week's game will have a big impact on the divisional standings as well.
What they're saying nationally about North Carolina:
ESPN's Dinich: The best team in the Coastal Division just might be the ineligible one.
Despite a first-year coach in Larry Fedora, entirely new offensive and defensive schemes, and an NCAA-imposed postseason ban, the Tar Heels have been one of the ACC’s most complete teams in the first half of the season. Carolina is third in the league in scoring offense and second in scoring defense. The offensive line has been outstanding, and paved the way for another jaw-dropping season by running back Giovani Bernard. The defense has made significant strides, and the coaching staff has done a tremendous job of getting the players to buy in quickly, forget the past, and relish their role of spoiler.
For UNC, keep an eye on:
RB Gio Bernard
The Tar Heels run a balanced attack, as UNC is just one of nine FBS schools to average more than 250 yards passing (276) and 200 yards rushing (211) per contest. On paper, it appears like the Tar Heels have a huge advantage on the ground, as Duke has struggled to stop the run the past few weeks. Last time out against Virginia Tech, a team averaging fewer than 89 rushing yards against FBS teams, the Blue Devils surrendered a total of 269 yards on the ground, including 183 to true freshmen JC Coleman. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Gio Bernard has gained 439 rushing yards in the last two weeks in wins over Virginia Tech (262) and Miami (177).
“You use two people every time he touches it,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. “I haven’t seen anyone tackle him one-on-one. You just have to do the best you can to leverage him. He’s a great football player.”
Bernard, who missed two games with an injury, is averaging 130.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks seventh in the country, and needs just 95 yards to reach 2,000 for his career. UNC head coach Larry Fedora said that he isn’t showing any signs of wearing down.
“I don't feel like at this point that he feels anywhere like we could overload him,” Fedora said. “I don't see that.”
For Duke, keep on eye on:
WR Desmond Scott
Conner Vernon, the new all-time ACC leader in career receptions, and Jamison Crowder, recently named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List (given to the nation’s top receiver), may receive more attention, but Desmond Scott is Mr. Third Down for Duke.
Scott, a senior that switched from running back to receiver this fall, caught a career-high 11 catches for 134 yards against Wake Forest, including a 35 yard reception on third-and-27 and a 23-yard catch on third-and-19. Last week against Virginia Tech, all four of Scott’s receptions earned Duke first downs, and half of them came on third down. Scott converted back-to-back third-downs in the first half with a 12-yard catch on third-and-6 followed by a 24-yard catch on third-and-16.
“Desmond Scott has been amazingly unselfish,” Cutcliffe said earlier this season. “And he is amazingly skilled.”
A Durham native, Scott has one more chance to beat the Tar Heels.
“It’s a rivalry, whether it’s soccer, track, basketball or football, it is what it is,” Scott said. “It’s my last go-around. I’m ready.”
Duke defensive line, including NG Sydney Sarmiento and DL Kenny Anunike, vs. UNC’s offensive line, including LG Jonathan Cooper
It all starts up front. Last week against Miami, Jonathan Cooper played all 85 offensive snaps, earning a team-best grade of 93 percent, had 14 knockdown blocks and didn’t allow a sack in UNC’s 18-14 win. Cooper and the rest of the line also paved the way for the Tar Heels’ running game, which totaled 272 yards, with both UNC touchdowns coming on the ground as well. Cooper will line up across from two of Duke’s veteran linemen, Kenny Anunike and Sydney Sarmiento. Anunike has recorded at least a half sack and half tackle for loss in every contest this year and ranks tied for third in the ACC with five sacks.
Duke will also be buoyed by the additions of Jamal Bruce and Justin Foxx, who both returned last week vs. Virginia Tech after missing significant time with injuries.
Penalties against North Carolina in the past two weeks
Penalty yards accumulated by North Carolina in the past two weeks
Most recent Duke home win over UNC
The Cinderella story that had Duke up 20-0 on Virginia Tech in the first quarter last week came to a quick halt as the clock struck midnight and the Hokies scored 41 unanswered points. Cutcliffe told the team during the game that the wheels had come off, but they could go back on.
Obviously, they didn't.
"What we became is a frustrated team," Cutcliffe said. "So my message then and it was on Sunday, as well, is you cannot let frustration be a guide for anything you do in line because it accomplishes nothing, zero. And if you can feel challenged, you can be concerned, you can be a lot of things, but frustration is not one of them, and I saw a bunch of frustrated individuals up-and-down our sideline, and I kept trying to relay that and trying to encourage -- and I guess I am old enough now to realize that I don't get frustrated if I can help it very, very often, rarely, because I've never seen it accomplish anything, and I don't want to see that emotion on our team."
Duke players didn't appear frustrated Tuesday. Instead, I'd call them peeved, as Kenny Anunike, Ross Cockrell and Sean Renfree all were a bit edgier with their answers than normal. Not rude, mind you, but definitely not as easy going as normal.
Tweet of the week:
"@Aceboone7: wait.... we play unc this weekend..... Time to bring home that damn bell. #Dukegang #undefeatedatthecrib" —Duke QB Anthony Boone
ESPN's Dinich: North Carolina 45, Duke 28
CBS Sports' Krest: North Carolina 28, Duke 21
Simply put, Duke will not be able to stop Gio Bernard. And that will be a problem. UNC, like Virginia Tech, will shut down the run and make the Blue Devils one-dimensional. That, too, will be an issue.
North Carolina 49, Duke 21