Most coaches will take lucky over good but all will take healthy over both.
North Carolina and Duke won’t get on the field together until Nov. 10 but the rivals already seem to be competing in a contest of “Who can lose the most players to injury?”
The Tar Heels lost two key starters this week in receiver Mack Hollins (collarbone) and left guard Caleb Peterson (back). Neither will be able to finish the season and help the Heels (4-2) make a run at another Coastal Division title.
UNC was already missing guard John Ferranto, who tore a pectoral muscle in practice in August. The only good news for coach Larry Fedora is the most difficult part of the schedule is already behind them.
The Heels go to Virginia (2-4) on Saturday and then have a week off before finishing with Georgia Tech, Duke, The Citadel and N.C. State.
Losing starters on the offensive line is never easy, especially ones as valuable as Peterson. Hollins’ absence might be even more difficult to overcome.
Whatever Hollins lacked in volume, he had 16 catches in six games, he made up for in value. Four of his catches went for touchdowns and almost all of Ryan Switzer’s work underneath (he has an ACC-best 58 catches) can be attributed to defenses having to respect the deep threat of Hollins.
Duke (3-4) has the week off but comes back next week, likely without receiver Anthony Nash or punter Austin Parker. Injuries have already claimed receiver Keyston Fuller and Scott Bracey, both of whom could have started this season.
Then there’s the matter of quarterback Thomas Sirk, sidelined in August practice by another Achilles’ injury, and the loss of cornerback DeVon Edwards, who suffered a major knee injury in a win at Notre Dame on Sept. 24.
Unlike UNC, Duke still has the meat of its schedule in front of them with road trips to Georgia Tech, Pitt, Miami and home games with Virginia Tech and UNC.
Both Duke (2013) and UNC (2015) have a division title to their recent credit. As talented and as well-coached as those teams were, they were also relatively healthy.
“You can’t make the team from the tub” was one of former N.C. State coach Chuck Amato’s pet sayings. It’s even harder to make a bowl, in Duke’s case, or the ACC title game, in UNC’s case, with some of your best players in the tub.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio