Joe and James Giglio's sports picks of the week
Pittsburgh (6-3, 4-1 ACC) at Duke (6-3, 3-2)
Kickoff: noon, Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham
TV/Radio: ESPNews, 620-WDNC, 96.5-WFLB
Pitt’s strength: Wide receiver Tyler Boyd is as dynamic as any receiver in the ACC, and the Panthers look to get him the ball often (he has 66 receptions this year – the next most productive receiver has 19). Boyd has had success breaking explosive plays against Duke in the past, but Pitt has largely looked for him on quick screens and short passes over the middle this year. It will be interesting to see if, given all the success UNC had last week in downfield passing, Pitt tries the same with Boyd.
Key theme: Can Duke’s secondary communicate better than it did last week? The Blue Devils cited frequent communication errors as a big source of their problems against UNC, so oftentimes they weren’t lined up properly or covering the correct player as the Tar Heels were blowing by them. That’s an easy way to lose a game, guaranteed.
N.C. State (6-3, 2-3 ACC) at No. 19 Florida State (7-2, 5-2)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m., Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.
TV/Radio: WRAL, 101.5-WRAL
Florida State’s strength: The Seminoles rely on running back Dalvin Cook, who has been sensational with 1,231 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Cook, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury all season, has five 100-plus yard games and two 200-plus yard games this season.
Key theme: Can N.C. State’s defensive line disrupt Florida State’s shaky front enough to force quarterback Everett Golson to pass? If Cook gets loose, especially for a home run or two, N.C. State doesn’t have the firepower on offense to keep up with FSU. But if N.C. State’s defense can contain Cook, and force Golson to throw to beat them, the Wolfpack has an outside chance at its first win in Tallahassee since 2005.
Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) at No. 17 North Carolina (8-1, 5-0)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill
TV/Radio: ESPNU, 106.1-WTKK
Miami’s strength: Statistically the Hurricanes have been mostly medicore – they’re allowing 410.3 yards (75th nationally) and they average 403.2 yards (62nd nationally) – but they’re 2-0 and have turned their season around, somewhat, since former head coach Al Golden was fired after a humbling 58-0 loss against Clemson. So Miami has some fight, it seems. The Hurricanes never lack for talent, either, though they’ve been especially undisciplined this season and rank 126th out of 127 teams nationally in penalties per game (14).
Key theme: For UNC it’s pretty simple: keep on doing what has worked. Which is to say, limit the penalties and turnovers, demoralize defenses with big plays (there have been a bunch lately) don’t get caught up in distractions. Such as, say, clinching the Coastal Division. The Tar Heels will have an opportunity to do that on Saturday if Duke beats Pittsburgh earlier in the day.
Wake Forest (3-6) at No. 6 Notre Dame (8-1)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame’s strength: Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer has a pass-efficiency rating of 160.5, which places him 16th in the nation and third on Notre Dame’s all-time list, just behind the 161.4 rating of Bob Williams in 1949 and matched by Jimmy Clausen in 2009. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore’s 16 touchdown passes is one shy of placing him in the top 10 for a season at Notre Dame.
Key theme: The defenses for Notre Dame and Wake Forest have been susceptible to big plays. The Irish defense has given up 17 plays of 35 yards or more while the Demon Deacons have surrendered 13. Notre Dame has the advantage offensively with 19 plays of 35 yards or more while the Demon Deacons have eight.
Other area games
N.C. Central (6-3, 5-1 MEAC) at Howard (1-8, 1-5), 1 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com, Greene Stadium, Washington, D.C.: The Eagles are on a five-game win streak, its longest since becoming a Division I school in 2011. N.C. Central looks to increase that streak to six as it faces a one-win Howard team.
Jacksonville (7-2, 4-2 Pioneer) at Campbell (5-5, 3-4), 1 p.m., BigSouthSports.com, Barker-Lane Stadium, Buies Creek: The Camels hope to earn their second winning season (their first was in 2011) since re-establishing its football program in 2008. Keep an eye on junior running back De’Shawn Jones, who needs three yards to become Campbell’s first 1,000-yard rusher.