November 30, 12:00, ESPN2
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Duke and North Carolina are playing a game of great significance, and there's not a square foot of hardwood to be found.
The 100th battle for the Victory Bell is one of the most meaningful in recent memory. The Tar Heels have completely turned things around in the second half of the season, winning five straight games to become bowl-eligible. Head coach Larry Fedora has righted the ship in Chapel Hill, despite losing star QB Bryn Renner earlier in the month. The only team hotter than Carolina in the ACC is Duke. The Blue Devils are enjoying a renaissance season for David Cutcliffe, reeling off seven wins in a row to seize control of the Coastal Division. With one more victory, Duke can begin preparations for a date with No. 2 Florida State in Charlotte next week. With a loss, the program will be at the mercy of tiebreaker rules.
Why Duke Might Win: Not many programs can thrive using two quarterbacks. Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils are finding a way to get it done. They average 34 points a game, deftly blending the unique skill sets of pocket passer Anthony Boone with scrambler Brandon Connette. Beyond the numbers, Duke is just finding a way to get it done, from a timely pick here to a gutsy there. This program is confident and surging at the most opportune time in the season.
Why North Carolina Might Win: The Heels have been Duke, with a lighter shade of blue. Carolina has just taken off on both sides of the ball. Marqise Williams is improving as Renner's successor, and rookie T.J. Logan is showing flashes of being a future feature back. On defense, the Heels have been feisty against the pass, while allowing more than 28 points in just one game all year. Kareem Martin and Norkeithus Otis have applied the pressure, while the defensive backs have come up big in the red zone.
Who To Watch Out For: Carolina houses a couple of terrific next-level pass-catchers in WR Quinshad Davis and TE Eric Ebron, who's already announced he's leaving for the NFL Draft. They'll match up with a blue-collar back seven of Duke that includes gritty linebackers David Helton and Kelby Brown and ball-hawking DBs Jeremy Cash, Devon Edwards and Ross Cockrell.
- Someone better keep a close watch on Connette at all times when he comes off the sideline. He doesn't always look the part, but he has a habit of making something out of nothing, accounting for 13 touchdown passes and 13 touchdown runs as a three-game starter.
- Martin and Otis will earn every pressure they get on Saturday as they square off with a Blue Devil O-line that's allowed just 14 sacks all season.
What Will Happen: With two surging programs in the same building, something has to give. The only thing separating Carolina and Duke is that it took the Tar Heels longer to find their 2013 groove. With the Coastal Division hanging in the balance, the Blue Devils' run of wins in close games is about to end. They'll fall to a rival that's just busting with confidence these days.
Prediction: North Carolina 30 … Duke 28
Line: North Carolina -6 – O/U: 60