North Carolina

College Football’s Week Ahead for the Triangle and beyond

It’s a week of rest for N.C. State and Duke, an opportunity for East Carolina to shine on a national stage, and another opportunity for North Carolina to get back in the Coastal Division race:

Happy Heels: UNC travels to Virginia this weekend and, all of sudden, good times are here again for the Tar Heels. Players and coaches alike spoke last week of their desperation for a victory – of how badly North Carolina needed what it earned on Saturday, a 48-43 victory against Georgia Tech.

Now comes the difficult part: keeping the good vibes going. UNC’s offense seems to have turned a corner the past two weeks, and Marquise Williams, the junior quarterback, has provided two of the best performances of his career the past couple of games.

Virginia, though, is perhaps the ACC’s most improved team. And UNC’s recent success in Charlottesville – the Tar Heels have won two straight there – can’t erase decades of pain it endured there.

Before winning at Virginia in 2010, UNC hadn’t won in Charlottesville since 1981.

Coastal cooperation? Georgia Tech plays at Pittsburgh in a game with division implications. Duke fans want that Yellow Jackets’ ground game to get going and stay going because a Tech win would provide the Blue Devils some cushion. Pitt enters 2-1 in the ACC, tied with Duke (and Virginia). Duke travels to Pitt on Nov. 1.

Thursday night lights: The bright lights of ESPNU will shine on rowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Thursday night when No. 18 East Carolina hosts UConn at 7 p.m.

It’s a great opportunity for Ruffin McNeill’s crew to showcase the Pirates’ brand and impress College Football Playoff voters.

The Pirates have won five straight and are coming off a bye. They’ll face a struggling UConn team (1-5, 0-3 AAC) that has lost four straight and also is coming off a bye.

It’ll also be a good test for ECU QB Shane Carden (2,129 yards, 16 TDs) because UConn’s strength is its defense. The Huskies rank 17th in total defense (325 ypg).

The Huskies have not been as fortunate on offense, as their 12.8 points per game average is the second-worst in the FBS. UConn has committed 14 turnovers in six games, which ranks 86th in the country.

UConn has a go-to threat in junior receiver Geremy Davis, who has caught 33 passes for 431 yards. For his career, Davis has pulled in 146 receptions for 2,139 yards, which are both the seventh-highest totals in school history.

Nationally ... blah: After consecutive weeks of Top 10 vs. Top 10 clashes with epic finishes, questionable calls and Final Four implications, the highlight this week is No. 3 Ole Miss’ night game at LSU. LSU is barely in the Top 25 at 23, but they don’t call that place Death Valley for nothing.