Game Preview and Prediction for Duke vs. North Carolina


Today your Duke Blue Devils take on their most hated rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in perhaps the most important game of the season in regards to the Coastal division. We have already wrote on the importance of this game and all the implications this game has of these two evenly matched teams. Duke is coming off a heartbreaking and controversial loss at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes and while the loss stings, the Blue Devils still control their own destiny in reaching the ACC title game. Win the rest of their games and they are in. Lose another and the Blue Devils will need some help from the their Coastal foes. North Carolina is heading into this game 7-1, coming off of a win at Pittsburgh last Thursday night that propelled them into the top 25. Carolina also controls its own destiny in the Coastal division. Win and they are in. Let’s get to some keys to the game. 

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1. The Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Both quarterbacks in this game, Marquise Williams for North Carolina and Thomas Sirk for Duke, play like Jekyll and Hyde. For one half they can look all-ACC, the next half you wonder how they won the starting job for their respective teams. In Carolina’s only loss against South Carolina earlier this year, Williams turned the ball over three times. Then in the Delaware game he was benched. That was the bad. The good came in the wins over Georgia Tech, Virginia and Pittsburgh, where Williams ran and threw all over all three defenses.

Duke is coming into this game with a highly ranked pass defense, eighth in the nation, but the last two games against a Michael Brewer led Virginia Tech team and a Malik Rosier led Miami Hurricanes, have looked everything but stellar. This defense can be thrown on by a competent QB but will Williams be competent today? That is the question.

2. Can Duke’s Defense Get Back Their Mojo?

As previously stated, the Duke defense has not been the same the last two games. It has not been the same stifling, can barely move the ball juggernaut it had been the entire year. Whether that be the ability of the quarterbacks they faced or the defense itself is a huge question mark this defense faces and it all starts with Jeremy Cash.

Cash needs to get back to his ACC Defensive Player of the Year self today. He is the catalyst for the run defense as well as the secondary. As important as Thomas Sirk is to the offense, Cash is just as important to the defense. Williams and Cash will battle all day through the air as well as on the ground.

Prediction – North Carolina 24 – Duke 21

This was almost an impossible game to pick. One, North Carolina is feeling extremely confident heading into this game while Duke’s heads might not be in the right place following last week’s events. Second, this game is at North Carolina, where the Tar Heels are rested after having played more than a week ago. Really it is a coin flip and in coin flips I tend to favor the home team but Duke winning would in no way surprise me.

Kickoff is at 12 PM ET on ESPN2. This is a heated rivalry and should be an exciting game.