Big day for Triangle’s football teams

The Triangle’s Big Three of Duke, North Carolina and N. C. State have rarely had a trifecta like the one they navigated last weekend. 

Duke upset Syracuse 38-24, one of the Blue Devils’ best road wins in recent memory. N. C. State upset Virginia, 38-21, the Wolfpack’s second big road win in as many weeks. UNC topped Virginia Tech, 56-45, to remain unbeaten. And stretching the map just a little, East Carolina went to Tampa and beat South Florida, 44-24, by far the Pirates’ best game of the young season.

In Duke’s win, QB Chase Brice threw for 270 yards and two TD’s, and Mataeo Durant ran for 63 yards and a pair of scores. N.C. State, now 3-1 on the season, relied on Bam Knight, who scored twice and had 101 rushing yards. The big play for the Pack came when 300-pound defensive lineman Alim McNeill batted then intercepted a pass and lumbered 18 yards for the score. 

North Carolina got a career rushing day from Michael Carter, who ran for 214 yards and crossed the goal line twice. QB Sam Howell tossed a trio of TDs as well. This was Virginia Tech’s third straight game with many of their players quarantined. In those games, Tech has been without 23, 21, and 15 players respectively. ECU won its first game as QB Holton Ahlers threw for 222 and three scores and Rahjai Harris ran for 115 yards and hit paydirt twice.

Nationally, Clemson exposed Miami, overrated at No. 7 coming into the game, 42-17. The only game the Tigers have to think about on the season will be at Notre Dame on November 7. Alabama looked great on offense, outscoring Mississippi, 63-48. No. 3 Georgia again had a sloppy half, trailing No. 14 Tennessee, 21-17 at the break. But the Bulldog defense took over in a 44-21 win. Alabama hosts the Dawgs Saturday night. Since they are likely to meet again at the end of the season, both teams are downplaying this game’s significance. But the top teams in the SEC are knocking off each other every week, allowing lesser lights to move up in the polls.

SOMETIMES YOU ARE LUCKY!  When Auburn beat Alabama on the famous “Kick Six” play in 2013, it was skill that won it. But sometimes it is luck, as was the case in Saturday’s game with Arkansas. All the Tigers had to do was have QB Bo Nix take the snap and spike the ball, then kick a routine field goal. (Arkansas was ahead 28-27.) But Nix fumbled the center snap then picked up the ball and spiked it backward. Fearless had never seen this happen—and apparently neither had the referee. After watching the replay he ruled it was grounding. Auburn then kicked the field goal and won 30-28. Was the referee right? Bill Lemonnier, veteran Big Ten official and rules expert, said it should have been ruled a fumble. It cost Arkansas the game.

Time to toss the darts and reveal whozza gonna win this weekend’s games.

CLEMSON AT GEORGIA TECH: The top three rated teams in the land have separated themselves from the rest of the field. And leading the trio is Clemson. Georgia Tech is coming off an impressive win on the flats, a 46-27 victory over Louisville. But the young Jackets will get worn down in this one. Clemson 45, Georgia Tech 17.

PITTSBURGH AT MIAMI: Miami is better with new QB D’Eriq King running the show. But they are not a Top Ten-worthy team. Pitt has lost its last two games 30-29 to N. C. State, and 31-30 to Boston College, missing the tying PAT kick in overtime! That doesn’t bode well for them here. If the heat doesn’t kill them, then the Canes might. Miami 34, Pitt 24.

NAVY AT EAST CAROLINA: Both teams have a lot in common: slow starts and big wins last weekend. Should make for a good game. If the Pirates can slow the Middies’ ground game, ECU can win. Close, its East Carolina 34, Navy 31.

BOSTON COLLEGE AT VIRGINIA TECH:  Boston College has been solid all season, while the Hokies roster looks like a M*A*S*H unit’s roll call. Few teams have the depth to overcome this level of the virus — and Tech’s not one of them. Even only because it’s in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech 28, Boston College 27.

LOUISVILLE AT NOTRE DAME: Louisville is still a year or two away, while Notre Dame’s time is now. Could be fun with a lot of scoring, but Fearless gives it to ---- Notre Dame 38, Louisville 23.

VIRGINIA AT WAKE FOREST: N.C. State gave the Cavaliers a rushing lesson they weren’t expecting. As for the Demon Deacons, this game comes after a two-week hiatus, so they will be rested but rusty. Fearless expects a close, exciting game that could go either way. The darts say ---- Virginia 27, Wake Forest 24.

NORTH CAROLINA AT FLORIDA STATE:  Normally this would be a tough game for the Tar Heels. But these are two programs on opposite paths. While FSU is chugging’ along, the Heels are cruising in the HOV lane. Jimbo Fisher departed Tallahassee and left a mess. Willie Taggart, whisked in from Oregon to right the ship, but didn’t. And new coach Mike Norvell is not getting it done — not with the players he inherited. The Seminoles will be good again and soon. How soon? UNC 35, FSU 28.

DUKE AT N.C. STATE: Both coming off impressive wins, and this game could be the best of the day. State has played three in a row on the road, so this will be a homecoming of sorts. Could go either way. If the Wolfpack’s secondary plays better, they will win. Will they?  N.C. State 31, Duke 28.

OTHER MAJOR GAMES THIS WEEKEND: Syracuse over Liberty (close,) Tennessee over Kentucky, Auburn over South Carolina (upset watch?) Florida over LSU, Texas A & M over Mississippi State, Missouri over Vanderbilt, Charlotte over FIU, and in the game of the week, Alabama over Georgia (Bama is more experienced at the skill spots and this one is on Tide turf.)

 TOFF COMPOSITE TOP TEN RANKINGS:  1. Clemson  2. Alabama 3. Georgia 4. Notre Dame 5. North Carolina 6. Oklahoma State 7. Cincinnati 8. Florida  9. Texas A & M 10. Miami. Also, 23. Virginia Tech.

Southeast Sports Syndicate, 2020.