I’ve got a hunch about the Carolina at Duke football game.
The Tar Heels are an 11-point underdog at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday. Statistically, the teams are pretty even and pretty average. For example:
Neither team has a single player listed in the top five in any ACC offensive category. In some categories, like touchdowns scored, you have to go as far down as No. 13 to find a Blue Devil and No. 34 to find a Tar Heel. Did you know that Nathan Elliott is the seventh-best passer in the ACC, and Duke’s Daniel Jones is No. 8?
Would you believe that the Blue Devils have rushed for 1474 yards this season and given up 1805 on the ground? And that Carolina’s three running backs – Antonio Williams, Michael Carter and Jordon Brown – are way better by the numbers than Duke’s running backs?
Yes, the records are disparate. Duke is 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the ACC. Carolina is 1-7 and 1-5 in the league. But let’s dive a little deeper.
The Blue Devils won at Northwestern, Baylor and Georgia Tech – three games they wouldn’t win today if there was a rematch. And they won at Miami in a monsoon, which hurt the Hurricanes far more than Duke. The Tar Heels had two games won – against Virginia Tech and at Syracuse – and blew them at the end of regulation. And they were tied with Georgia Tech and had the ball late in the fourth quarter, but turned it over.
So, factor all that in for Saturday; both are about .500 football teams.
Now, let’s take the intangibles. They have said for a hundred years to throw the record book out the window when these two teams play. Duke has won two straight in the series after two decades of domination by the Tar Heels, who haven’t rung the victory bell since 2015.
The Blue Devils have a bowl bid wrapped up. The Tar Heels still have their two most important games left, their 2018 bowls, versus Duke and N.C. State. And having rivalry games at the end of a season make a difference.
Let’s go back 50 years. Duke had all-star quarterback Leo Hart and was favored over UNC, which had converted safety Gayle Bomar at quarterback and was 2-7 for the season. Carolina won 25-14.
That’s my hunch for Saturday.