UNC, Duke will meet with more at stake

Bowl berths hang in the balance as both teams come in with winning records

Staff WriterNovember 3, 2009 

  • With both teams at 5-3, it's just the fifth time in the past 40 years that UNC and Duke each will enter this rivalry game with winning records. Saturday's winner will have the Victory Bell and the inside track to a bowl bid.








    UNC 59-34




    UNC 38-0




    UNC 31-10




    UNC 41-40





— The last time Duke played football at North Carolina, two seasons ago, the Tar Heels underestimated the Blue Devils.

Given the bowl implications, and the position of each team in the ACC's Coastal Division, that shouldn't be an issue for Saturday's game at Kenan Stadium, the 96th meeting between these rivals.

This is the first time in the series that the outcome of the game means so much to the bowl hopes for each side.

Each team is 5-3 overall and needs to win two of its last four games to qualify for a bowl. UNC and Duke have been to bowl games in the same season only once, in 1994. That's also the last year both teams entered this game with winning records.

"It's kind of like both of our seasons are on the line," UNC quarterback T.J. Yates said Monday.

Duke, at 3-1 in conference games, is tied with Georgia Tech (8-1, 5-1 ACC) in the loss column for first place in the Coastal Division. UNC, after a 20-17 upset win over Virginia Tech, is 1-3 in the ACC and in last place in the division.

The earlier date for this matchup -- this game has been the season finale in 46 of the past 56 years -- is not the only difference this year. In 1994, each team had already qualified for a bowl before they met.

The only other time in the past 30 years these teams had winning records going into the game was 1981, when Duke was 6-4 and UNC 8-2.

But there weren't as many bowl games back then, so the potential bowl implications for Saturday's contest make it unique.

The stakes were much lower for the 2007 season finale when UNC capped coach Butch Davis' first season with a 20-14 overtime win in Chapel Hill.

That meeting turned out to be Ted Roof's final game as Duke's coach, and the Blue Devils finished the season at 1-11 with a 25-game ACC losing streak.

The Tar Heels didn't expect such an intense and physical effort from the Blue Devils that year, UNC junior safety Deunta Williams said Monday.

"The last time they were here, we didn't have that mindset, and we went into overtime," Williams said.

UNC can be forgiven for overlooking the Devils, however.

The Tar Heels have owned the series since Steve Spurrier's last Duke team won a share of the ACC title in 1989 with a 41-0 blowout in Chapel Hill.

Since that memorable loss, UNC has won 18 of 19 in the series, including the past five. The past four games in the series have been decided by a total of 19 points, though.

Williams expects the same intensity but understands the game has more meaning.

"It's definitely different," Williams said. "You've got to give them a lot of credit. They've done an excellent job this year."

The Blue Devils have won three straight ACC games but none against a team with a winning record. They routed N.C. State (3-5, 0-4) on Oct. 10, followed by wins over Maryland (2-6, 1-3) and Virginia (3-5, 2-2).

The bottom line is the only thing that concerns Davis, who is 2-0 against the Devils.

"Duke's playing very well," Davis said. "This is a dangerous football team. They're gifted, they're talented, and they didn't get to be 5-3, and 3-1 in the conference, by accident."

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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