NC State (3-5) at Duke (6-2)
Nov. 9, 4:00, ESPNU
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Duke and NC State are about to add another chapter in their Tobacco Road rivalry. The rivals could have more different mindsets as the final leg of the 2013 regular season begins. The Blue Devils were off last week, recharging and reliving their signature upset of Virginia Tech that locked down a bowl berth. Duke hasn't lost since Sept. 21, and was undefeated in October, its first such month since 1994. The Wolfpack, to the contrary, was last victorious on Sept. 28 and is 0-5 in ACC play. It's been a difficult debut for head coach Dave Doeren, who's looking for something positive to carry into the offseason.
Why NC State Might Win: Completely lost in the tough season in Raleigh is the fact that the defense has played well, with just a couple of exceptions. Take out the Florida State game, and the Pack is allowing only 22 points per game, respectable considering how little support the defense is getting from the offense. State is led by an active front that includes linemen Art Norman and Thomas Teal and LB Robert Caldwell.
Why Duke Might Win: The Blue Devil defense has come a long way since getting spanked by Pitt in September. It's given up just an average of 13 points over the last three games, a trend likely to continue against methodical NC State. Duke has been a collaborative effort, fueled by the sure-tackling of S Jeremy Cash and linebackers David Helton and Kelby Brown. The Devils can focus on stopping the running of QB Brandon Mitchell and RB Shadrach Thornton since the Pack has thrown just four touchdown passes all season.
Who To Watch Out For: Duke spent a lot of time during the bye week working on its passing game. QB Anthony Boone has been the right man in the huddle for the Blue Devils, but he was inconsistent in recent games with Virginia and Virginia Tech.
- Mitchell or Pete Thomas? Doeren isn't quite sure who'll get the ball this weekend. Two months into the season, NC State is pretty much where it was in August with its quarterback situation.
- Duke WR Jamison Crowder was quieted by the Virginia Tech defensive backs two weeks ago. Don't bank on it becoming a trend. Crowder is too good to be kept in check again for long, especially if Boone's blockers can continue keeping the pocket clean.
What Will Happen: A break in the action won't be enough to slow down what Duke has going on these days. The Blue Devils are more talented than NC State, and they're executing better in all phases. The Pack won't have the offensive answers to mount a comeback once it falls behind in Durham.
Prediction: Duke 31 … NC State 17
Line: Duke -9 o/u: 56.5
The Blue Devils' four game win streak starts with a defense that has improved each week…