This time the "Battle for the Victory Bell" is big enough for national TV.
It's Triangle Rivalry Week!
Or at least it's Part One.
And this time it's going to start a little bit early.
There are only two games, as N.C. State gets a week off, coincidentally to celebrate its bowl eligibility, but they're both monsters.
Tonight at 7:30, UNC (5-5, 3-3 ACC) will visit No. 25 Duke 8-2, 4-2) in a game to be shown on ESPN. Of course they don't like each other too much, and there's plenty at stake. If UNC beats either Duke tonight or the visiting Wolfpack on Nov. 29, the Tar Heels will be bowl eligible. Duke, meanwhile, has to beat UNC tonight and visiting Wake Forest on Nov. 29 to claim its second straight Coastal Division title and play Florida State for the ACC Championship again.
Now, on Saturday at 2, N.C. Central (6-5, 5-2 MEAC) will host North Carolina A&T (9-2, 6-1). Of course they don't like each other too much, and there's plenty at stake. If the Aggies win they're the outright MEAC champions and headed to the NCAA playoffs. But if the Eagles pull off the upset, there could be a three-, four- or five-way tie for the title; in three of the eight scenarios NCCU will be in the playoffs next week.
Duke vs. UNC
Time used to be when the Blue Devils had chances to spoil Tar Heel seasons, and until the last couple of years it usually didn't happen.
But Duke has a two-game winning streak in the series, and has been good enough recently to get national TV cameras in the house.
"It's obviously a very short week of preparation," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "I'm happy and proud of our team for their focus and turning themselves around quickly, being very
focused, having good practices. ... With a game that's such a big game, being that it's our chief rival, I think maybe that helped us as far as regaining focus on what was immediately in front of us. It'll be a big challenge. North Carolina is a very talented, good football team that's playing real well right now."
UNC leads the all-time series 58-37-4.
"We're excited to play on Thursday night," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "You're the only game on TV and everybody's watching you. It should be a lot of fun. We've kept our players fresh and it's all mental now. I think our guys are playing on national TV against a really good opponent. I don't say much about it. The kids know it's a big game and what they've got to do. David (Cutcliffe) is going to do a great job. Duke waits for you to beat yourselves."
Duke is a six-point favorite.
N.C. Central vs. North Carolina A&T
NCCU has worked hard all season to get a huge opportunity against its historic arch rival.
The Eagles might get the bottom seed in the FCS playoffs should they engineer a shocker, but a post-season spot in Jerry Mack's first season at the helm would be a major coup.
The Aggies, who won 28-0 last season in Greensboro, are coached by former Eagle mentor Rod Broadway.
"I'm extremely proud of our team and where we've come from," Mack said. "We've been able to overcome some adversity. Emotions are going to be extremely high. Our guys are ready because it's a rival game and it's for a championship. We've put ourselves into the position we want to be in."
The Aggies lead the series 49-31-5. The Dunkel Index says A&T is a 16-point favorite.
Last week's three stars
1. Marquise Williams, QB, UNC. Williams completed 23 of 40 passes for 276 yards and a TD and rushed 19 times for 122 yards and three TDs in a 40-35 win over Pittsburgh.
2. C.J. Moore, S, NCCU. Moore blocked a punt and recovered in the end zone for the game-winning TD in a 19-14 win at Norfolk State. He also had 11 tackles and forced a fumble.
3. Matt Dayes, RB, NCSU. Dayes rushed 11 times for 66 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 47 yards and a TD in a 42-13 victory over Wake Forest.