At the halfway point of the college football season, the early returns are fair-to-middling-to-awfully good for North Carolinas ACC teams.
Duke is one win from going to a bowl game for the first time in 18 years. North Carolina, while ineligible for postseason play, is in position to wreak havoc on the Coastal Division race. N.C. State is coming off a Saturday night upset of Florida State, while Wake Forests loss at Maryland, without star receiver Michael Campanaro, dropped the Deacons back to .500.
Heres a look at how the rest of the season may pan out:
DUKE (5-1, 2-0)
The remaining schedule is fiendishly difficult, and Duke hasnt beaten any of these teams in five years, but it comes down to this: A win against North Carolina or Miami, both at home, will secure that elusive sixth win for bowl eligibility, and the Blue Devils might go into the Georgia Tech game favored as well. (Paul Johnson is 1-6 against ACC teams that had time to prepare for his option offense, and the Blue Devils have a bye week ahead of that game.)
The glaring hole in Dukes current resume is a win over a team with a winning record, but the Blue Devils will have many chances to fill that void. It will only take one to make this season a success, and theyll have a pretty good shot at winning more than one.
Predicted results: at Virginia Tech, L; vs. North Carolina, W; at Florida State, L; vs. Clemson, L; at Georgia Tech, W; vs. Miami, L.
Final record: 7-5, 4-4.
NORTH CAROLINA (4-2, 1-1)
It shouldnt be hard to figure out the Tar Heels: With Giovani Bernard in the lineup, theyre 4-0. Without him, they managed to lose to Louisville and Wake Forest. Theoretically, as long as Bernard is healthy, its tough to bet against the Tar Heels, but those two losses, even without Bernard, did raise questions about the North Carolina defense that havent really been answered yet.
This much is clear: The Tar Heels are acclimating to Larry Fedoras pace and systems, and theyre getting better every week. It would not be a surprise if they won one or both of the local rivalry games. (And the Tar Heels, like Duke, have a bye week to prepare for Georgia Tech.)
Predicted results: at Miami, L; at Duke, L; vs. N.C. State, L; vs. Georgia Tech, W; at Virginia, W; vs. Maryland, W.
Final record: 7-5, 4-4.
N.C. STATE (4-2, 1-1)
Even if the Wolfpack had lost to Florida State on Saturday night, the schedule still set up nicely for an 8-4 finish. So normally, youd say after the upset of the Seminoles that the schedule now sets up nicely for a 9-3 finish. But this is N.C. State, and winning a game no one expected it to invariably results in losing a game no one expects it to (unless losing to Miami counts, in which case the Wolfpack is back to even).
The only thing stopping the Wolfpack from getting nine wins is itself, a problem more easily corrected than some faced by other teams.
Predicted results: at Maryland, W; at North Carolina, W; vs. Virginia, W; vs. Wake Forest, W; at Clemson, L; vs. Boston College, W.
Final record: 9-3, 6-2.
WAKE FOREST (3-3, 1-3)
We now have experimental evidence to establish the gulf in coaching between Jim Grobe and Randy Edsall: Take away five Wake Forest starters through suspension and injury, including offensive fulcrum and UNC destroyer Campanaro, and the Deacons lose at Maryland by five.
Unfortunately for Wake Forest, the game at Maryland was one of the more winnable games on the Deacons remaining schedule. Theyll have to win at Virginia on Saturday, take care of business against Boston College and pick up an upset somewhere down the road to become bowl eligible.
Predicted results: at Virginia, L; vs. Clemson, L; vs. Boston College, W; at N.C. State, L; at Notre Dame, L; vs. Vanderbilt, L.
Final record: 4-8, 2-6.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947