But for UNC, the time to start winning is now. Urgently. Now.
The Tar Heels (1-4, 0-2 ACC) are going to have to win at least five of their last seven games to qualify for a bowl game, and it won’t be an easy task. That stretch run begins tonight at 7:45 at Kenan Stadium, when they host surprisingly good No. 10 Miami (5-0, 1-0) in an opportunity for a major upset — if they play by far their best game of this season.
The UNC-Miami showdown is one of three games involving Triangle squads this weekend. The other two games are Saturday.
N.C. Central (3-3, 1-1 MEAC) will look to get its ship righted when the Eagles host Morgan State (1-5, 1-1) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Duke (4-2, 0-2 ACC) is on the road at Virginia (2-4, 0-2) for a 3:30 p.m. contest on Fox Sports South, and if the Blue Devils can win it they’ll be on track for a second straight bowl game and their best season since 1994.
N.C. State (3-3, 0-3), which is licking its wounds after back-to-back ACC losses in winnable games, is idle until next Saturday’s trip to Florida State.
The next game will determine whether or not a squad will have a winning record at the halfway point.
And that’s the situation this weekend for the three of the Triangle’s four Division I college football teams who are taking the field in home games.
The answers start coming tonight at 7:45, when N.C. Central (3-2, 1-0 MEAC) hosts S.C. State (4-2, 2-0) at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium in a game to be shown on ESPNU.
And the ACC teams play Saturday, with Duke (3-2) hosting Navy (3-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium at 12:30 on WRAL and N.C. State (3-2, 0-2) entertaining Syracuse (2-3, 0-1 ACC) in the Orange’s first visit to the Triangle as an ACC member at 3:30 on Fox Sports Carolinas.
UNC (1-4, 0-2) has the day off before hosting Miami a week from tonight.
N.C. State (3-1, 0-1 ACC) and N.C. Central (2-2) both play their conference road openers as mild favorites, while UNC (1-3, 0-1) is an underdog in a game it desperately needs to win.
Duke (3-2, 0-2 ACC) got the ship righted on Saturday against Troy, and gets a week off before facing a must-win home game against Navy.
The Tar Heels will start the action at 12:30 p.m. at Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0) in a game to be shown on WRAL.
The Eagles will visit Howard (1-3, 0-1) in NCCU’s MEAC opener at 1 p.m.
All three local ACC teams have home games — N.C. Central is idle until next week’s MEAC opener at Howard — and all three are favored in non-conference action.
And it is fair to call all three of them “must” wins.
Then at 3 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke (2-2) will take on Troy (2-2) of the Sun Belt Conference in the teams’ first meeting.
And at 3:30 at Carter-Finley Stadium, N.C. State (2-1) will host Central Michigan (1-3) of the MAC.
The Blue Devils (4-4-2, 1-2-1 ACC) have been up-and-down this season and are currently on a three-game winless streak. But are they really capable of “beating anybody in the country?”
We find out tonight as they take on ACC leader Virginia (9-0, 3-0) which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation and is looking for its first 10-game win streak since 1990. Virginia has one local player in freshman midfielder Alexis Shaffer, a veteran of CASL Chelsea who was the MVP of the state 4A title match for Green Hope last year. The Cavaliers have allowed five goals all season.
Ali Kershner is in goal for the Blue Devils and Morgan Stearns for Virginia.
Duke takes a two-goal lead at halftime, but the Cavaliers close the gap in the first five minutes of the second and get the winner with 10 minutes left to make it 3-2 and break the Blue Devils’ hearts.
And regardless of the outcome on a very cloudy day, the opponent is making a little history in Durham for the second time.
Pittsburgh (1-1, 0-1 ACC), which last played the Blue Devils in 1976, is making its first football visit to the Triangle as a member of the ACC. Duke is 2-1 and 0-1.
And it was the Panthers who served as the opponents for the very first game at then-Duke Outdoor Stadium, winning 52-7 on Oct. 5, 1929.
Duke gets even more points than that winning score today and still comes up on the short end, fighting back from a couple of huge deficits before falling short 58-55. It’s the second highest score in ACC history after Georgia Tech’s 68-50 win at UNC last season.
Two weeks ago all four Division I college football teams in the Triangle were favored to win on the same day, and thanks to a last-second field goal and some overtime heroics, all four of them did.
Well, this time the scenario is exactly the opposite. The oddsmakers and experts are expecting everyone to lose, some in very convincing fashion.
Three of the games are at home with one on the road.
The show starts tonight at Carter-Finley Stadium, where N.C. State (2-0) hopes to continue its perfect start to the Dave Doeren era with an upset of No. 3-ranked ACC favorite Clemson in a 7:30 game on ESPN.
The action continues on Saturday at noon in Atlanta, with UNC (1-1) visiting Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) in the Tar Heels’ ACC opener on ESPN. Then at 12:30 on WRAL, Duke (2-1, 0-1) will entertain Pittsburgh (1-1, 0-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium in the Panthers’ first visit to the Triangle as members of the ACC.
And at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, N.C. Central (2-1) will conclude the non-MEAC portion of its schedule against CAA power Towson (3-0), which already has a road romp at Connecticut and is No. 3 in the FCS national rankings.
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke gets a really big opportunity today, on a sun-splashed afternoon but in front of a half-full house.
The 2-0 Blue Devils will square off with 1-0 Georgia Tech, which last lost to Duke in 2003 here when current Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof was the Duke head coach.
Get a win today, and Duke will be favored for a 7-0 start. Seriously.
Duke will go with regular backup quarterback Brandon Connette, since starter Anthony Boone is out indefinitely after suffering a broken collarbone last week at Memphis.
Tech’s QB is Vad Lee, a sophomore out of Durham Hillside.
And Lee dominates all afternoon, with a touchdown responsibility of five as the Yellow Jackets roll to a 38-14 win.
Add in that the Durham Bulls are completing the Governors’ Cup Championship Series on the road against the Pawtucket Red Sox, and what ever is a Triangle sports fan to do?
While there’s not much football to choose from, there’s plenty of top-flight futball kicking around all weekend beginning Friday evening. First, the Duke Men’s Soccer team (2-1-1) hosts Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium in Durham. However, perhaps the marquee match of the weekend is down the road in Chapel Hill, where No. 2 North Carolina (2-0-1) hosts No. 18 Maryland (1-2-1). The Tar Heels and Terrapins have combined to win four of the last five ACC Men’s Soccer Tournaments. Both schools are again expected to vye for the conference crown this season, Maryland’s last as a member of the ACC.
North Carolina is paced thus far by junior transfer Tyler Engel, who has three goals in his debut three games as a Tar Heel. Meanwhile, Maryland is led by senior forward and Hermann Trophy candidate Patrick Mullins. Friday’s match is the first time since 2008 both teams will not be ranked in the top-5 when going head-to-head, a span of four seasons and six games. Kickoff at Fetzer Field is 7 p.m.
N.C. State gets in on the action Saturday evening with a battle of undefeateds. The Wolfpack men’s team (3-0-0) hosts No. 9 Clemson (4-0-0) in a preview of next Thursday’s gridiron clash between the same schools. N.C. State is led in scoring by Alex Martinez and Clement Simonin, who have one goal and one assist each this season. Meanwhile, the Tigers’ Thomas McNamara has four goals and two assists. Match time is 7 p.m. at Dail Soccer Field.
Meanwhile over at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, there’s a pivotal pro soccer tilt Saturday between the Carolina RailHawks and Tampa Bay Rowdies. Carolina and Tampa Bay are tied atop the North American Soccer League Fall Season table after a Paul Hamilton stoppage-time own goal gave the Rowdies a home victory over the RailHawks last Saturday. Carolina was attempting to win their first road game this year, but instead it set a more ignominious mark: its first back-to-back losses of 2013. However, the RailHawks hasn’t lost a game in Cary this year, and the team will need all three points this weekend to keep pace in the NASL standings. The RailHawks continues to be led by Brian Shriver and his league-leading 12 goals. The rough and ready Rowdies will feature Georgi Hristov (9 goals), Luke Mulholland (6 goals, 5 assists) and former RailHawk Etienne Barbara, Carolina’s career goals leader, who was acquired by Tampa Bay from Minnesota United FC last month. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. back in Chapel Hill, the top-ranked UNC Women’s Soccer team (7-0-0) renews their rivalry with No. 8 Notre Dame (5-1-0). The Fighting Irish, in its first year as a member of the ACC, opened conference play Thursday with a 3-1 win over N.C. State in Raleigh. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels’ 2-1 victory last night over No. 22 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg was the 750th win in Anson Dorrance’s illustrious UNC coaching career. Following North Carolina’s 26 NCAA Women’s College Cup appearances (and 21 championships), the school with the second-most Cup appearances is Notre Dame with 12, leading to three championships, the last being in 2010.
Duke (2-0) will take on decade-long nemesis Georgia Tech (1-0) at Wallace Wade Stadium at 3:30 p.m. in the ACC opener for both teams.
And N.C. Central (1-1) will face a tough road challenge when the Eagles travel to face the brand-new program at UNC Charlotte (2-0) at noon.
N.C. State (2-0) is idle until its Thursday night home game with Clemson, while UNC (1-1) is off until its Sept. 21 visit to Georgia Tech.