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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Duke, NCCU, State all face key challenges today

Posted by on Sat, Sep 13, 2014 at 1:45 AM

click to enlarge Duke's Josh Snead looks for daylight earlier this season against Elon. - CHRIS BAIRD
  • Chris Baird
  • Duke's Josh Snead looks for daylight earlier this season against Elon.

Three weeks into the Triangle's college football season, there haven't been any real shockers but there have been a couple of surprisingly close calls.

There was one of those last week when UNC had to come back to claim a 31-27 win over San Diego State at Kenan Stadium.

And the week before, N.C. State needed its own big finish to escape Georgia Southern 24-23 at Carter-Finley.

Duke hasn't had a nail-biter yet, while N.C. Central took a thumping at East Carolina before laying one onto CIAA member Elizabeth City State last week.

Today there will be two home games and one on the road, as 2-0 UNC - which lost its Top 25 ranking following the close call - is idle.

Duke (2-0) will take on Kansas (1-0) in its biggest non-conference game of the season at 3:30 (Fox Sports Carolinas) at Wallace Wade Stadium. NCCU (1-1) will host UNC Charlotte (2-0) at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium.

N.C. State (2-0) has the road test, perhaps its toughest assignment so far this season when the Wolfpack travels to South Florida (1-1) for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff (CBSSN) at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

Duke vs. Kansas

The Blue Devils haven't started a season 3-0 since 1994, but they have a chance to match that today.

Duke has played Kansas only once, falling 44-16 in 2009 in the first meeting of the home-and-home contract.

Blue Devil coach David Cutcliffe and Kansas' Charlie Weis are good friends, as Weis once hired Cutcliffe to be offensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

"They’re going to come ready to play football," Cutcliffe said of the Jayhawks. "They make you execute. They make you play well. They play some really good football teams, a lot like what we do. They’re a Big 12 football team. They have athletes. They have a lot of guys with good size who can run. I think their new people have helped them. Athletically and offensively, they’re much better. I see a difference and I know they know the difference. ... They’re a good football team and they’re a Big 12 good football team, so we’ll have to be at our best. I think our squad knows that."

The Vegas line says Duke by 14.

N.C. Central vs. UNC Charlotte

It's the second battle of the NCCs, although the visiting team prefers to be known as the Charlotte 49ers now.

NCCU is one of the better teams on Charlotte's schedule after the 49ers crushed Campbell and Johnson C. Smith. The Eagles surprised the 49ers with a 40-13 win on the road last season.

"We're just very excited to be 1-0," NCCU coach Jerry Mack said. "I thought our offense sputtered around a little bit, but we were able to get some things going in our running game. Defensively we played with intensity and created a couple of turnovers. ... This week we're expecting to go against a physical football team. They've grown as a program. And their defensive line is playing very well."

The Dunkel Index calls this one a coin flip.

N.C. State at South Florida

State leads the series 2-0, winning the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl 14-0 in Charlotte and crushing the visiting Bulls 41-10 in 2008 at Carter-Finley.

State's only 3-0 start since 2002 was in 2010.

"We're playing four-quarter football I think is the biggest difference (from last season)," State coach Dave Doeren said. "Defensively last year we were further ahead than our offense. We really struggled scoring points last year, and we had a lot of turnovers on offense - a lot of what I consider foolish penalties - and this year in two games I think we're the second least penalized team in the nation. ... If you're a smart football team that doesn't beat yourself, doesn't turn it over, doesn't have a lot of penalties that you can prevent then you're going to be in a lot of games. And we've been able to do that."

The Vegas line says State by 1 1/2.

Players of the week

1. Brian Walker, UNC. The sophomore CB had a 100-yard interception return and another interception in the fourth quarter.

2. Felix Small, NCCU. The senior DE had six tackles including five solos and forced his second fumble in as many games.

3. Anthony Boone, Duke. The senior QB completed 27 of 41 passes for 268 yards and a TD and rushed for 47 yards and two TDs.

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