College basketball season starts on Friday night, but a great college basketball rivalry takes place on the gridiron on Thursday night between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils. The football rivalry between UNC and Duke isn’t nearly as storied as the one on the hardwood, but there’s no love lost between these two schools inside the lines in any sport. The Victory Bell is on the line in Durham with an ESPN broadcast crew in the press box.
North Carolina vs. Duke College Football Preview
Date/Time: Thursday November 10, 7:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: North Carolina -10.5
One of the main reasons why this rivalry doesn’t get the press that the basketball one gets is that UNC has won 23 of the last 26 head-to-head meetings. They’re working on a two-game winning streak heading into Thursday night. The Tar Heels are clearly the better team this season, as they bring a 7-2 straight up record and a 6-3 ATS mark to the table. Duke is also 6-3 ATS, but they’re only 3-6 straight up and 0-5 in conference play. Both of these teams have regressed from last season, but only one of them has been able to stay afloat.
North Carolina Tar Heels:
There were some concerns that the Tar Heels offense would drop off without the services of Marquise Williams, but Mitch Trubisky has been spectacular running this offense. Trubisky has completed over 70 percent of his passes with a 19/2 TD/INT in the spread offense of Larry Fedora and offensive coordinators Gunter Brewer and Chris Kapilovic. There’s a lot of balance for the Tar Heels. Elijah Hood has eight touchdown runs and six yards per carry and TJ Logan has seven touchdown runs and six yards per carry. Trubisky has aided with 62 scrambles for 145 yards and five rushing scores. Ryan Switzer has been Trubisky’s favorite target with 70 catches for 728 yards, but six receivers have caught at least two touchdown passes. North Carolina has 39 offensive touchdowns and they’ve spread them around quite nicely. This isn’t last season’s offense that put up 40 points per game, but they take care of the football and regularly hang numbers in the 30s.
Defensively, things have taken a little bit of a step back for Gene Chizik’s unit, but that was to be expected. The Tar Heels went from 39 points and 498 yards per game in 2014 to 24.5 points and 436 yards per game in 2015. This season, the Tar Heels have improved again in the yards per game and yards per play metrics, but they’ve allowed 26.2 points per game. Over the last three games, however, the Tar Heels have only allowed 47 points to Miami, Virginia, and Georgia Tech. One concern for the defense is that UNC’s quick-strike offense hasn’t allowed them many breathers. The Tar Heels defense has played over 35 minutes per game on average.
Duke Blue Devils:
The season was pretty much over for David Cutcliffe before it started. Right before the season opener, quarterback Thomas Sirk tore his Achilles again and that was the beginning of a laundry list of key injuries for the Blue Devils. Now, they’re also without senior running back Jela Duncan and 6-foot-5 wide receiver Anthony Nash. Two starters on defense, DeVon Edwards and Tinashe Bere, also suffered season-ending injuries. It became a season about development. That development right now is freshman quarterback Daniel Jones, who has done everything in his power to help the Blue Devils. He’s completed 62 percent of his passes with an 11/9 TD/INT ratio. Five of those interceptions came in the game against Virginia. Duke has only rushed for 4.1 yards per carry under first-year offensive coordinator Zac Roper. Roper took over for Scottie Montgomery, who took the job at East Carolina. Duke has faced a lot of adversity this season.
The defense has been put into a lot of tough spots this season and they’ve bent and bent and bent, but haven’t broken all that often. Duke’s defense is allowing less than 24 points per game. They held Louisville to 24 points on the road and did the same in a home loss to Virginia Tech last week. Duke’s secondary has limited opponents to a 50.8 percent completion percentage. They’ve given up 5.8 yards per play, so there may be some regression coming over these last two games, but this defense has fought its collective heart out. They’ll need a big stand here against a North Carolina offense that is one of the most balanced that they’ve faced this season.
College Football Free Pick: Duke Blue Devils +10.5
Everything goes into this game for Duke. It’s been a brutal season, but the team gets to send its seniors off for their final game at Wallace Wade Stadium with a rivalry tilt against an opponent that scored 66 points last season and has dominated this series head-to-head. Duke is on the road at Pitt and Miami the next two weeks in a couple of good fade spots, but you can bet that the Blue Devils will lay it all on the line this week.
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