The time is almost near when we see the 5-1 North Carolina Tar Heels take on the 4-2 Duke Blue Devils.
This matchup will severely affect the Atlantic Coast Conference, as the two football programs are neck to neck for the number one spot in the standings. UNC currently holds a one-game advantage, so a win is crucial to create some space and earn more respect.
The other reason this meeting is critical for North Carolina to win is that their path to getting a spot in the ACC championship game gets more farce with the remaining schedule. UNC still has games left against Pitt, 15th-ranked NC State, and 14th-ranked Wake Forest.
North Carolina does have momentum on their side, winners of their last two games. Not only did they win those vital games, but the defense also showed up majorly, holding Virginia Tech to just 10 points and slowing down the Hurricanes in the 27-24 win.
Now, bringing that momentum on the road to face their top rivals could bring out their best performance of the season.
Key to victory for UNC
Oct 8, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Omarion Hampton (28) runs the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Attacking Duke’s secondary early and often is the key to unlocking another victory for UNC. The best thing the Blue Devils offer this season is their defense, averaging 19.7 points allowed per game.
Their team strength is at the mercy of North Carolina’s best attribute, which is their offense. If UNC can win the battle in the trenches, offering quarterback Drake Maye time to throw, I like North Carolina’s chances of leaving Wallace Wade stadium with a win.
Something to watch
Oct 8, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back DeAndre Boykins (16) celebrates his interception by doing a Miami ‘U’ sign against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
The defense started the season as the talk of the town, but for all the wrong reasons. They struggled, giving up 61 points to Appalachian State, and couldn’t stop Georgia State from torching them in the second half. However, the last two games have seen the defense play at a high level, which they will need to continue in Saturday’s match.
Quarterback Riley Leonard leads Duke’s offense and has done an excellent job at managing the game by playing mistake-free football. On the season, he’s thrown for 1312 passing yards, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions. If UNC can rattle Leonard and cause havoc in their offensive attack, it can give North Carolina the necessary advantage.
What you need to know
DURHAM, NC – NOVEMBER 20: A helmet for the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 20, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
WHAT? North Carolina (5-1) at Duke Blue Devils (4-2)
WHEN? Saturday, Oct. 15, 8:00 p.m. ET
WHERE? Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC
TV? ESPN/ABC (Watch and stream the game live on ESPN+)
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
WEATHER? Precipitation: 0%, 68 degrees, Wind: 5mph
LINE? UNC -7
LAST MEETING? 2021, North Carolina 38-7
ALL-TIME SERIES? UNC leads 63-40-4
PREDICTION? UNC 28, Duke 17