N.C. State (4-2) at Louisville (5-1)
Kickoff: noon, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
TV/Radio: WTVD, 101.5-WRAL
Louisville’s strength: Quarterback Lamar Jackson, the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, leads the ACC in rushing (832 yards) and rushing touchdowns (15), and has thrown for 1,806 yards and 15 touchdowns.
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Duke did the best job of any defense against Jackson, who was just 13 of 26 passing for 181 yards, but he still ran for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Key theme: Can N.C. State take Duke’s blueprint and turn it into a win?
Duke had a 37 to 22 advantage in time of possession. Louisville’s offense was on the field for 61 plays, compared with an incredible 99 at Clemson (in a regulation game).
The longer you keep Jackson on the sideline, the better off you are.
“He’s going to make plays,” N.C. State safety Dravious Wright said. “You just have to keep your poise.”
UNC (5-2) at Virginia (2-4)
Kickoff: 3 p.m., Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Carolinas, 106.1-WTKK
Virginia’s strength: The Cavaliers aren’t an especially great offensive team, but they rank 27th nationally in passing offense, and quarterback Kurt Benkert has thrown for at least 278 yards in each of his past three games. The Cavaliers’ receiving trio of Olamide Zaccheaus, Doni Dowling and Keeon Johnson will test a UNC defense that, strangely, has yet to intercept a pass this season. The Tar Heels should have a chance to end that streak on Saturday, given Virginia’s reliance on the pass.
Key theme: UNC was hopeful that it might enter this game back in control of its own destiny in the Coastal Division race. Virginia Tech’s victory against Miami on Thursday, though, spoiled that possibility. Now the Tar Heels must continue to keep pace. A victory in Charlottesville would give UNC its seventh consecutive against Virginia. The Tar Heels will be short-handed and likely without three offensive starters. They’re also playing for the eighth consecutive week without a bye. UNC has to avoid a lull.
East Carolina (2-4) at Cincinnati (3-3)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati
TV/Radio: CBSSN, 107.9-WNCT
Cincy’s strength: Cincinnati’s greatest strength is its passing game, where it ranks 33rd in the country in yards per game. The Bearcats like to spread the ball around to three receivers who can pick up first downs when needed.
Key theme: ECU quarterback Philip Nelson is expected to return from injury Saturday after being out a couple of weeks. How effective Nelson can be and whether he can stay healthy will be essential for the Pirates’ success. ECU is averaging the third most passing yards per game in the country. Now the Pirates just have to continue to find wide receiver Zay Jones, turn those yards into points, and keep from turning the ball over.
Jonathan M. Alexander
Other area games
N.C. Central (5-2) at Morgan State (2-3), 1 p.m., NCCU Sports Network, Hughes Stadium, Baltimore: N.C. Central coach Jerry Mack has his team rolling once again, in prime position to contend for a third-straight MEAC Championship. But they don’t want to share it again. In order for that to happen, the Eagles have to beat a talented Morgan State team, which has had their number in recent years. The Bears have won seven out of the last 10 over the Eagles, and two out of the last three.
Johnson C. Smith (1-6) at Shaw (0-7), 1 p.m., 88.9-WSHA, Durham County Memorial Stadium, Durham: Shaw, still searching for its first win of the season, will have one its best shots Saturday as it faces Johnson C. Smith at home. The Golden Bears have also struggled this year, particularly stopping the run, conceding 275 yards per game on the ground. Shaw has struggled both on the ground and air but has had a much tougher time throwing the ball.
Fayetteville State (2-5) at St. Augustine’s (2-5), 1 p.m., 750-WAUG, George Williams Athletic Complex, Raleigh: After a loss to Winston-Salem State, St. Augustine’s will try to get back on track Saturday at home in another tough game against a conference opponent. This matchup is a little more even, however. St. Augustine’s must stop the run to win the game, because Fayetteville State has not proven it can win by throwing the ball. They rank last in the conference with 99 passing yards per game.
Stetson (3-3) at Campbell (3-2), 4 p.m., 88.3-WUAW, Barker-Lane Stadium, Buies Creek: It’s been three weeks since Campbell last played a football game. Hurricane Matthew canceled one week, and the Camels had a bye last week. So rust may be a factor. But the Camels are one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the conference. They rank second overall in yards allowed and second in yards gained, and are led by the school’s all-time leading rusher De’Shawn Jones.
Jonathan M. Alexander