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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tar Heels could earn bowl spot while Duke, State look for big upsets

Posted by on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 7:40 PM

Duke running back Desmond Scott runs the ball against Florida State earlier this season.
  • File photo by Al Drago
  • Duke running back Desmond Scott runs the ball against Florida State earlier this season.

Somebody from North Carolina is going to earn a bowl bid on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.

Resurgent Wake Forest (5-2, 4-1 ACC) will take on resilient UNC (5-3, 1-3) at 3:30 p.m. And while a win would keep the Deacons’ unlikely ACC championship hopes alive, a Tar Heel victory would lock UNC into a post-season spot.

That will be the last of three ACC games involving Triangle teams, as N.C. State (4-3, 1-2) will try to keep its two-game winning streak alive at Florida State (4-3, 2-2) in a noon contest while Duke (3-4, 1-2) looks to keep its fading hopes for a winning season alive in a 12:30 game with Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Despite the conference records the Tar Heels are listed as 6 1/2-point favorites over the Deacons. UNC leads the all-time series, which hasn’t been contested since 2007, 67-34-2.

“I really have a lot of admiration for what Coach (Jim) Grobe has done at Wake Forest over the years,” UNC coach Everett Withers said. “A very well-coached team, the quarterback (Tanner Price) is playing real efficient. He’s been in the top-three in the ACC in a number of categories just because of his ability to be accurate throwing the ball. They run the spread, they do a nice job of formations and he has such good ‘escapability’ that he makes a lot of plays just because he can get out of trouble himself and keep his eyes down the field and see receivers. Chris Givens is another talented skill guy that they have, one of the top guys in the conference in receiving yards, all-purpose yards, yards per reception. Again, a talented guy that we’re going to have pay special attention to this week.”

The Wolfpack has actually played the Seminoles close in recent years, winning four of the last nine meetings including a 28-24 thriller last season in Raleigh. But FSU leads the series 21-10 and will be an 18 ½-point favorite.

“When you win national championships or you’re in the Top 10 for 10 or 15 years in a row that says a lot,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said of the Seminoles. “They have their marquee tomahawk chop, they’re on television a lot, and I think they’ve marketed well. Once they got to a certain level they were able to maintain it. …

“(FSU QB E.J. Manuel) is another dual-threat guy with a big strong arm. He’s a tough guy to get on the ground when he pulls the ball down and takes it. He’s a 230-pound guy, he’s a big strong runner. He’s not afraid to pull it down and run with it, run option with it and run the zone read scheme. They do all those things with him. He’s very capable to take off and run.”

Virginia Tech leads the series with Duke 11-7 including a 44-7 romp last season in Blacksburg. The Hokies are 14 ½-point favorites.

“We face a huge test,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “This team, Virginia Tech, has hit its stride in all areas. Their offense is gifted. I think right now this is the best team that we’ve played, and that includes Stanford, the way they are playing right now. It’s going to be a huge challenge. They’re difficult for us to match up with on both sides of the ball. The biggest concern I have is not Virginia Tech, it’s Duke getting enough people healthy.”

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