N.C. State, winner of six straight, will take a well-earned break while Duke and North Carolina both try to arrest losing streaks before they get any longer. The Blue Devils (4-3) have a chance to post their first win in four games when they host Pittsburgh (2-5), and the Tar Heels (1-6) travel to Virginia Tech (5-1) as North Carolina enters a very difficult stretch of its schedule.
And with the Wolfpack off this week, East Carolina (1-6) makes a guest appearance against Brigham Young (1-6) as both once-proud, uber-struggling programs look for their second win of the season. The bonus East Carolina prediction: Cougars 38, Pirates 35.
Duke and Florida State pushed last weekend, but I moved to 18-3 for the season, 13-7-1 against the spread.
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Last week: “There are probably enough wins on Duke’s schedule to get to six, but a home win Saturday would give them a better shot at 7-5 or 8-4.”
This week: Duke’s path to a bowl now leads through Pittsburgh and Army, so this week looms as an absolute must-win for the Blue Devils. They certainly showed improvement against Florida State last week and that bodes well for the final stretch of the schedule, but it’s going to take everything Duke has to win seven games.
Saturday prediction: Duke 28, Pittsburgh 24.
Last week: “If UNC is going to save its season, it has to start now.”
This week: It did not. And with Western Carolina as the only sure thing left on the schedule, this seems like a good time for a thought exercise. What would UNC’s record be if Mitch Trubisky came back? The Tar Heels probably beat Cal, maybe Louisville or Duke, but would still be scrambling for 6-6. And with all the injuries, even Trubisky wouldn’t be able to do much. As it is, the Tar Heels are playing spoiler, and a win in Blacksburg would certainly do that in the Coastal Division.
Saturday prediction: Virginia Tech 33, North Carolina 17
Last week: “The Wolfpack could potentially go 11-1 ... or slide to 2-4 with a loss at Pittsburgh, although that seems unlikely and nine or 10 wins seems entirely in play.”
This week: You have to give Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack credit for putting that (you choose: awful, inexplicable, bizarre, catastrophic) loss to South Carolina in the rear-view mirror. N.C. State’s six-game winning streak hasn’t been easy at times, but the Wolfpack has made plays when it has needed to, its best players especially. The next three weeks will determine whether N.C. State can stay atop the Atlantic Division and sneak its way into the CFP conversation.
Saturday prediction: Off.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock