DG’s Week 11 College Football Preview:
Duke-Carolina, State-Wake, D2 Title Tilts
Top “3 To See” (National Highlights, Too!)

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

While everyone is encouraged to check out our weekly Old North State Tailgate podcast, which drops once a week during college football season and allows for a deeper dive into last weekend’s results and this week’s action, here is one of our weekly North Carolina Sports Network features, known as “Three To See,” meaning three games that rank among those most worth watching in the coming days, with a heavy dose of “state of North Carolina” and Atlantic Coast Conference angles, as one might guess or expect.

Nationally, at this time of year, the focus is mainly on the dozen or so teams that still have a chance to make the four-team College Football Playoff. This week’s schedule offers two head-to-head games between top-10 teams and some other intriguing matchups in which highly regarded teams face challenging opponents and thus risk elimination from the CFP sweepstakes.

The Big Ten and the SEC both have high-profile showdowns between top contenders, with #3 Michigan (9-0) visiting #10 Penn State (8-1) and #9 Mississippi (8-1) at #2 Georgia (9-0). Elsewhere, #4 Florida State (9-0) hosts Miami (6-3), #5 Washington (9-0) hosts #18 Utah (7-2), and #6 Oregon (8-1) hosts Southern Cal (7-3).

During Michigan’s 9-0 start, its defense — likely benefitting from a multi-year sign-stealing scandal to some degree — has given up less than seven points per game, which is just an insane number here in 2023. Although the Wolverines lead the all-time series against Penn State 16-10, the Nittany Lions have won five of the last seven rivalry matchups at Beaver Stadium (capacity 106,572), which is the second-largest college football venue in the country, behind only Michigan Stadium.

Moving on, here are our “Three To See” during Week 11 of college football season:

“Three To See,” Game #1

Duke (6-3) at #24 North Carolina (7-2), 8 pm, ACCN

Going back to 1990, when UNC coach Mack Brown got things rolling in Chapel Hill during his first tenure, the Tar Heels have dominated this rivalry, winning 27 times in 33 matchups. More recently, though, it’s been more balanced, with Carolina going 6-5 in the last 11 games, including a 38-35 thriller in Durham a year ago, in Brown’s first contest against Duke’s Mike Elko.

The dynamics are different this time, mainly because the Blue Devils’ defense is much better than it was in 2022.

When UNC (a 14-point favorite) has the ball, this will be a fascinating strength-versus-strength collision. The Tar Heels, who rank alongside Florida State as the ACC’s top scoring offense (39 points per game), will be going against a Duke unit that leads the league in scoring defense, at only 16 points per game.

Carolina is absolutely loaded at the skill positions, with quarterback Drake Maye (ACC-best 340 yards per game in total offense), running back Omarion Hampton (ACC-best 119 rushing yards per game), wide receiver Tez Walker (#3 in the ACC with 88 receiving yards per game) and tight end Bryson Nesbit (top receiving TE in the league) leading the way.

When Duke has the ball, all eyes assumedly will be on third-string true freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis. who struggled (7-of-19 passing, 86 yards, one touchdown pass, one interception) against Wake Forest last Thursday night in his first college start but still led the Blue Devils on two fourth-quarter scoring drives and a 24-21 victory in Durham.

Earlier this season, during the Tar Heels’ 6-0 start, the UNC defense dominated two opponents (South Carolina, Syracuse) with accomplished quarterbacks and two others (Minnesota, Pittsburgh) with severe QB complications. More recently, however, the Carolina defense yielded an average of almost 35 points per game during a three-game stretch against Miami, Virginia and Georgia Tech in which the Heels’ run defense and miscommunications in the secondary were particularly problematic.

Note: This Duke-Carolina matchup is part of the Old North State Tailgate & Traveling Sports Circus, a state-wide, 18-stop tour that visits a different football game each week somewhere in North Carolina. Throw footballs, win prizes, play games and talk sports with award-winning broadcaster David Glenn, long-time athletic director Mike Waddell and their team. This week’s location: Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, on the lawn in front of the University United Methodist Church, across from Sutton’s, from 5-7:30 pm, leading up to the game’s 8 o’clock kickoff.

“Three To See,” Game #2

NC State (6-3) at Wake Forest (4-5), 2 pm, CW

Although NC State (68-42-6) has had the better of this rivalry historically, Wake Forest has won nine of the last 10 matchups played in Winston-Salem, and given the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s game, it won’t be much of a surprise if the Demon Deacons emerge victorious again this year.

The basic Xs and Os here are uncomplicated. Both defenses are much better than both offenses. These are the same circumstances the Wolfpack faced heading into its recent, low-scoring home victories over Clemson (24-17) and Miami (20-6), and these are the same circumstances the Deacons faced heading into their recent split of low-scoring league games against Pitt (a 21-17 win) and at Duke (a 24-17 loss).

While the teams’ current records aren’t worthy of any national or even regional acclaim, both are playing for something significant.

Coach Dave Doeren and the Wolfpack still have dreams of just the second season of 10 or more wins in program history; that would be accomplished by winning out against Wake, Virginia Tech (also on the road), UNC and a bowl opponent. The Deacons desperately want to extend coach Dave Clawson’s school-record, seven-year bowl streak, and with a road trip to #20 Notre Dame next on the schedule, wins over State and at Syracuse seem like the best path to accomplish that goal.

The bizarre twist to this matchup came when NC State’s starting quarterback, sophomore MJ Morris, announced early this week that he won’t play the rest of this season so he can retain a year of eligibility. (Under current NCAA rules, a player can participate in a maximum of four games but still redshirt.) Morris originally was going to redshirt the 2023 season, but after Virginia QB transfer Brennan Armstrong and the Wolfpack offense struggled badly during the team’s 3-2 start, Morris was elevated to the starting position and led the Pack to a 3-1 record, including impressive victories over Marshall, Clemson and Miami.

Both Armstrong and Wake starter Mitch Griffis will have difficult job descriptions in this contest, because neither team has a strong offensive line or a consistently effective running game, and both defenses have played well in most games this season. Armstrong does have one exceptional asset at his disposal in freshman wideout KC Concepcion, who has consistently made big plays as a receiver and on creative running plays, while Griffis has talented running backs in Demond Claiborne and Justice Ellison and a big-play receiver in Jahmal Banks.

As in these teams’ other recent games, the difference likely will come down to who creates more turnovers and big plays as well as who limits their untimely penalties, missed assignments and other mental mistakes.

“Three To See,” Game #3

D2 Conference Championship Games

With so much focus on the top level of college football, it’s easy to forget that others play by different rules and on different timetables.

For example, while FBS teams now play 12 regular-season games in most cases, FCS teams play only 11. Also, whereas FBS leagues hold their championship games in early December, Division Two conferences often play theirs in mid-November.

Among North Carolina-based programs, two schools will be playing for conference titles on Saturday.

#15 Lenoir-Rhyne (9-1) at Tusculum (6-4), 1 pm, FloSports

Going back to 2010, the two college football programs in North Carolina with the most total victories are Appalachian State (now FBS) and Lenoir-Rhyne (Division Two). In 2013, current East Carolina head coach Mike Houston led Lenoir-Rhyne to a 13-2 record and the national championship game.

Now the #15 Bears (9-1, 7-1), who have been ranked in the Top 25 at the Division Two level all season, are looking for their eighth South Atlantic Conference title since 2010 and their first under fourth-year coach Mike Jacobs.

While most conference championship games are held at neutral sites, Lenoir-Rhyne will have to win on the road to claim this South Atlantic crown.

Tusculum is only 6-4 overall this season but gets to host the title contest because, by conference rule, the host school rotates from division to division each year rather than it serving as a reward for the team with the better record and/or higher ranking. The Pioneers, league members since 1998, are seeking their fourth SAC title.

Fayetteville State (8-2) vs. #18 Virginia Union (9-1), HBCU Go

Fayetteville State has been a member of the CIAA since 1954, but only since the turn of the century have the Broncos been a significant player in that league.

Now FSU — 8-2 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference play — is going for its fifth CIAA title in the last 22 years and its second in a row under eighth-year coach Richard Hayes Jr., who played defensive back on some really good teams at North Carolina A&T in the early 1990s.

The Broncos handed their title-game opponent, #18 Virginia Union, its only loss of the regular season. FSU beat the Panthers 10-7 on a rainy day in September that limited both offenses.

Virginia Union, which is based in Richmond, has captured only one CIAA title (2001) since 1986. Saturday’s neutral-site matchup against Fayetteville State will be played at Salem Stadium in Salem, Va., which is approximately a three-hour drive from Richmond and about a four-hour drive from Fayetteville, N.C.

Week 11 ACC/NC College Football Schedule
(Saturday Unless Otherwise Indicated)


Virginia (2-7) at #11 Louisville (8-1), 7:30 pm, ESPN (Thurs.)
Georgia Tech (5-4) at Clemson (5-4), noon, ABC
Virginia Tech (4-5) at Boston College (6-3), noon, ACCN
NC State (6-3) at Wake Forest (4-5), 2 pm, CW
Appalachian State (5-4) at Georgia State (6-3), 2 pm, ESPN+
Memphis (7-2) at Charlotte (3-6), 2 pm, ESPN+
Miami (6-3) at #4 Florida State (9-0), 3:30 pm, ABC
Pittsburgh (2-7) at Syracuse (4-5), 3:30 pm, ACCN
East Carolina (1-8) at Florida Atlantic (4-5), 4 pm, ESPN+
Duke (6-3) at #24 North Carolina (7-2), 8 pm, ACCN


East Tennessee State (2-7) at #21 Western Carolina (6-3), 1 pm, ESPN+
Davidson (7-2) at Morehead State (3-6), 1 pm, ESPN+
#8 Delaware (7-2) at Campbell (4-5), 1 pm, FloSports
North Carolina A&T (1-8) at Rhode Island (5-4), 1 pm, FloSports
Elon (5-4) at Richmond (6-3), 2 pm, FloSports
Gardner-Webb (5-4) at Tennessee Tech (3-6), 2:30 pm, ESPN+
#7 NC Central (8-1) at Howard (4-5), 3:30 pm, ESPNU

Division Two

Wingate (7-3) at UVa-Wise (2-8), noon
#15 Lenoir-Rhyne (9-1) at Tusculum (6-4), 1 pm, FloSports
Newberry (4-6) at Mars Hill (7-2), 1 pm
Barton (5-5) at Erskine (0-10), 1 pm
Catawba (4-6) at Carson-Newman (5-5), 1 pm
Chowan (0-9) at #25 West Florida (7-3), 1 pm
#18 Virginia Union (9-1) vs. Fayetteville State (8-2), 3 pm, HBCU Go
Concord (1-9) at UNC Pembroke (6-3), 4 pm
Season Over:

Elizabeth City State (3-7)
Johnson C Smith (7-3)
Livingstone (4-6)
Saint Augustine’s (0-10)
Shaw (3-7)

Winston-Salem State (4-6)

Division Three

Brevard (5-4) at Belhaven (8-1), noon
Methodist (2-7) at Greensboro (1-8), noon
NC Wesleyan (4-5) at Huntingdon (7-2), 1 pm
Guilford (2-7) at Bridgewater (6-3), 2 pm