Virginia (1-3) at Duke (2-2)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham
TV/Radio: ACC Network, 99.3-WDNC, 620-WDNC
Virginia’s strength: The Blue Devils will be tested by Virginia’s passing game. Kurt Benkert had a school-record 421 yards passing and five TD passes last week in the Cavaliers’ 49-35 win over Central Michigan, the most TD throws by a UVa quarterback since Matt Schaub’s five against Akron in 2002.
The Cavaliers have been a fast-strike team. Of their 13 scoring drives, 12 have lasted four or fewer minutes, including the seven against the Chippewas. The Virginia defense, headed by former East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill, is dealing with injuries in the secondary.
Key theme: With home games against Virginia and Army, the Blue Devils are positioned for a winning streak. The Blue Devils insist there will be no letdown after the big win at Notre Dame, but the loss of safety DeVon Edwards, a senior leader and captain, to a season-ending knee injury will be felt at some point. Daniel Jones is showing more mastery of the offense and the Duke defense, while allowing 35 points at Notre Dame, led FBS in sacks with 17 after four games.
The Cavaliers have lost 17 straight games on the road since 2012. The Blue Devils want to make it 18.
Wake Forest (4-0) at N.C. State (2-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Carolinas, 101.5-WRAL
Wake Forest’s strength: The Demon Deacons’ defense had five takeaways in last week’s win at Indiana and have forced nine turnovers on the season. Their plus-5 turnover margin ranks No. 11 in the country and is a gigantic improvement over last year’s minus-13.
Key theme: N.C. State has been able to run on Wake Forest the past two years, both wins, and this year’s team is averaging 210.7 yards per game. But Wake Forest junior defensive end Duke Ejiofor has been a handful this season and the Deacs have been strong against the run. Wake is giving up just 88.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks No. 12 in the country.
N.C. State running back Matt Dayes has five touchdowns in his last two games against Wake. N.C. State needs another big game from him on Saturday.
UNC (3-1) at Florida State (3-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
TV/Radio: ESPN, 106.1-WTKK
Florida State’s strength: Another week, another significant test for the Tar Heels’ beleaguered run defense. This time it comes against Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, who is averaging 124 rushing yards per game, and 6.3 yards per carry. If UNC holds Cook to less than 150 yards, consider it a major victory. The Seminoles are loaded just about everywhere else, too, and their defensive line will pose problems for a UNC running game that has been relatively slow to get going during the first month of the season.
Key theme: A triumph in Tallahassee would go a long way toward establishing the Tar Heels as a legitimate contender in the ACC. They won in their most recent trip to Florida State, in 2010, but much has changed since for both programs. In Larry Fedora’s fifth season as UNC’s head coach, the Tar Heels believe they can compete with, and beat, anyone. Victories on these kinds of grand stages have eluded UNC, though. The Tar Heels are seeking their first road victory against a top-15 opponent since a 2001 victory at No. 13 Clemson. Since then, UNC has lost nine consecutive road games against top-15 teams.
UCF (2-2) at East Carolina (2-2)
Kickoff: Noon; Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville
TV/Radio: CBSSN, 107.9 WNCT-FM
UCF’s strength: Running the football is what the Knights do best, running the ball nearly twice as much as they throw it. Freshman Adrian Killins leads the team in rushing yards with a 15.1 rushing average. He had an 87-yard touchdown earlier this season. ECU struggled last week against Virginia Tech giving up one 55-yard run.
Key theme: After two straight losses, East Carolina needs to get back on track as they enter conference play. UCF does fairly well against the passing game, holding three of its first four opponents to under 150 yards passing. But East Carolina is among the best. Virginia Tech, the best passing defense in the country, gave up 360 yards passing, so it’s likely UCF would struggle too. But the key will be turnovers. ECU has struggled there in recent weeks.
Jonathan M. Alexander
Other area games
N.C. Central (2-2) at Bethune-Cookman (0-3), 4 p.m., NCCU Sports Network, Municipal Stadium, Daytona Beach: N.C. Central won a tight 34-31 game on the road against Norfolk State last week. But this week presents an even bigger test. Bethune was N.C. Central’s lone loss in the conference last season, and a reason the Eagles shared the MEAC title instead of winning it outright. Bethune Cookman has struggled this year. But conference games are still conference games and anybody can win.
St. Augustine’s (1-3) at Virginia Union (2-2), 1 p.m., WAUG 750 AM, Hovey Field, Richmond: St. Augustine's won its first game of the season and first win under first-year head coach Tim Chavous last week against The Lincoln. Prior to that, the Falcons had lost 12 of their last 13 games. Virginia Union started the season with two big conference wins and last year, beat St. Augustine's 42-7.
Shaw (0-4) at Elizabeth City State (1-3), 1 p.m., WHSA-FM 88.9, Roebuck Stadium, Elizabeth City: Last week, Bowie State showed Shaw why it is among the best in the CIAA. It accumulated 555 yards of total offense on the Bears and scored 55 points. Shaw will have to put that behind them, as they face Elizabeth City State, a team Shaw has beaten the last four times they’ve met. It could be the program's first win since first-year head coach Adrian Jones took over.
Campbell (3-1) at Marist (0-3), 1 p.m., 88.3 WUAW, Tenney Stadium, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: After an overtime win at home over Butler last week, Campbell will look to continue that momentum on the road. Senior running back De’Shawn Jones leads the Camels on the offensive side, rushing for 448 yards and seven touchdowns.