Triangle ACC coaches keep it cool at Pigskin Preview

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJuly 25, 2013 

— Unbeaten against in-state opponents last season, Duke football coach David Cutcliffe could have easily claimed the mythical 2012 state title for the Blue Devils on Thursday at the annual Pigskin Preview.

In an event known for its barbs and boasts between area coaches – and not always of the cordial variety – Cutcliffe decided modesty was the best policy.

“I don’t know that we played enough games to say that,” said Cutcliffe, who led the Blue Devils to wins over North Carolina, Wake Forest and N.C. Central in 2012.

“I don’t think you can declare a championship without playing them all.”

Ambiguity will be less of a problem after the 2013 season. There will be seven games between in-state Football Bowl Subdivision teams this season, two more than in 2012.

All three ACC Triangle teams meet on the field this season, UNC and N.C. State square off with East Carolina, and Duke and State face Wake Forest.

Duke will also face N.C. Central, a Football Championship Subdivision team, for the third time in five years.

Given the current division alignment in the ACC – with UNC and Duke on one side and N.C. State on the other – it will be awhile before the state’s bragging rights are so clear cut.

“I don’t think we play Duke again for six or seven years so it’s unique to have that opportunity to play them all in one season,” first-year N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.

State and Duke aren’t scheduled to meet again until 2020. The series was one of the major casualties of the ACC’s expansion in the early 2000s. The two schools played every year except one from 1924 to 2003. They’ve only met two times since.

Duke won the last meeting with N.C. State, 49-28 in Raleigh. The Devils haven’t beaten State and Carolina in the same season since 1989. They beat Wake for the first time since 1999 last season and picked up only their second win over the Tar Heels in 23 years.

Opportunity has been an issue for the Pirates, who are favored to win their division in their last season in Conference USA. They will move to the American Athletic Conference in 2014 but they get a rare chance at both the Tar Heels and Wolfpack in 2013.

ECU has played UNC and N.C. State in the same season only twice since 1981 (2007 and ’10). The Pirates have never beaten State and UNC in the same season.

The Heels went 8-4 in Larry Fedora’s first season in 2012 but half of their losses came to in-state FBS opponents. UNC lost at Wake and Duke in 2012 but beat ECU.

The Wolfpack split its in-state games last season with a loss at UNC and a home win over the Demon Deacons. The Wolfpack swept UNC, Duke, Wake and ECU in 2008, which led former coach Tom O’Brien to declare the Wolfpack as “the best football program in the state, without question.”

Neither Cutcliffe nor Fedora were willing to go that far on Thursday. Fedora did say winning the state title, which was a program emphasis under former coach Mack Brown in the 1990s, is one of UNC’s goals this season.

“That’s going to help us get to where we want to be because if we win the state championship, that gives us a much better chance of winning the Coastal Division,” Fedora said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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