The Duke-North Carolina rivalry is more synonymous with basketball - but with the way these two teams have been putting up points so far, don’t be surprised to see a March Madness-like point tally as these two football programs do battle Saturday in Chapel Hill. Yet, while the Blue Devils are off to an unbeaten start, the Tar Heels are looking to build off last week’s win after dropping their first two games.
The points should be plentiful, as Duke comes in averaging 45 points per game - good for 17th in the nation - while the Tar Heels are also within the top 30 at 39.3 points per game. Quarterback Daniel Jones has accounted for more than 800 yards and seven touchdowns through three games, prompting North Carolina coach Larry Fedora to remark: “I think Daniel Jones has done a really good job of running their offense. This kid can do everything that I think he wants to do offensively. So he’s able to attack you in a multitude of ways.” The Tar Heels were tagged for 82 points in losses to California and Louisville to open the season, but rebounded defensively in a 53-23 rout of Old Dominion. The North Carolina ground game has been impressive, accounting for 10 touchdowns so far.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE:Duke -2.5
ABOUT DUKE (3-0, 0-0 ACC): While the offense gets the bulk of the attention, the Blue Devils’ run defense has been something to behold. No team in Division I has been stingier on the ground than Duke, which is allowing just 47.7 yards per game while limiting North Carolina Central, Northwestern and Baylor to a combined 1.8 yards per carry on 79 attempts. The Blue Devils’ own rush attack has been formidable, with Shaun Wilson (41 carries, 293 yards, four TDs) and Brittain Brown (42 carries, 235 yards, two TDs) forming a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-2, 0-1): The Tar Heels were already throttled by injury heading into last week’s matchup with Old Dominion, and lost three more starters - defensive lineman Jalen Dalton, offensive lineman William Sweet and wide receiver Thomas Jackson - in the one-sided victory. The latest spate of maladies prompted Fedora to joke with reporters: “The way this thing’s going right now, we’re going to need every single guy and probably some of you.” Quarterback Chazz Surratt looked solid in his return from injury last week, but isn’t guaranteed to be the starter moving forward.
1. Take away an 81-yard TD run Duke surrendered in its opener, and opposing teams have generated just 62 yards on 78 rush attempts.
2. North Carolina routed Duke 66-31 in 2015, but was upset 28-27 by the Blue Devils as the No. 17-ranked team last season.
3. The Tar Heels have allowed 69 first downs through three games, good for 106th in FBS.
PREDICTION: Duke 38, North Carolina 31