DG’s Week 7 College Football Preview:
Miami-UNC, NCSU-Duke, Huge D2 Duel
Top “3 To See” (Oregon-Washington, 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 of course a heavy dose of “state of North Carolina” and ACC angles, as one might guess or expect.

Unlike three weeks ago, when it would have been ridiculous to ignore the Colorado-Oregon, Ohio State-Notre Dame and Florida State-Clemson games on the national schedule, which all ended up providing plenty of drama and produced absolutely enormous TV audiences, this week’s focus returns to a handful of the most compelling contests much closer to home.

Briefly, the best national matchups this week are led by the only battle of unbeatens on this week’s FBS schedule: Oregon (5-0) at Washington (5-0).The Ducks have won 15 of the last 18 games in this rivalry, but the Huskies have won three of the last six, including a 37-34 thriller at Oregon last season. This is just the second “Border War” matchup for both Oregon coach Dan Lanning, formerly Georgia’s defensive coordinator, and Washington coach Kalen DeBoer, formerly the head coach at Fresno State.

There are only 11 undefeated teams left in the Power Five conferences: #4 Florida State (5-0), #12 North Carolina (5-0) and #14 Louisville (6-0) in the ACC; #5 Oklahoma (6-0) in the Big 12; #2 Michigan (6-0), #3 Ohio State (5-0) and #6 Penn State (5-0) in the Big Ten; #1 Georgia (6-0) in the SEC; and #7 Washington (5-0), #8 Oregon (5-0) and #10 Southern Cal (6-0) in the Pac-12.

Elsewhere on the national scene, Texas A&M (4-2) visits #19 Tennessee (4-1) and Missouri (5-1) visits #24 Kentucky (5-1) in intriguing SEC matchups, and Southern Cal (6-0) visits #21 Notre Dame (5-2), with the Trojans’ perfect record and top-10 national ranking on the line.

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

“Three To See,” Game #1
#25 Miami (4-1) at #12 North Carolina (5-0), 7:30 pm, ABC

North Carolina’s impressive 5-0 start, the program’s first since 1997, has included games against teams with a very talented quarterback (South Carolina), an impressively balanced offense (App State), a powerful running game and physical defense (Minnesota) and a confident and occasionally dominant 4-1 start (Syracuse).

As the Tar Heels host Miami, they again will be facing all of those things … but all in the same opponent this time.

While Miami still isn’t “back” in the sense of the program’s five-time national champion status, the 2023 Hurricanes may offer one of the more talented and balanced teams of their 20 seasons as an ACC member.

The Canes have legitimate All-ACC candidates at quarterback (Tyler Van Dyke), running back (Henry Parrish Jr.), wide receiver (Xavier Restrepo), along both lines (e.g., center Matt Lee, defensive tackle Leonard Taylor III), linebacker (Francisco Mauigoa), defensive back (safety Kamren Kinchens) and kicker (Andres Borregales). They also have two of the best true freshman in the conference: starting right tackle Francis Mauigoa and starting defensive end Rueben Bain Jr.

Because UM is #1 nationally in rushing defense (58.2 yards per game) and UNC lacks a dominant offensive line, Carolina likely will need another top-shelf performance from star dual-threat quarterback Drake Maye to win.

The Tar Heels (325.8 yards per game) and Hurricanes (294.8) are the top two passing offenses in the ACC. Meanwhile, UNC finally will have a chance to fully incorporate wide receiver Tez Walker, a 22-year-old Kent State transfer and NFL prospect who missed the Heels’ first four games while stuck in an NCAA eligibility quagmire before getting cleared and coming off the bench (six catches, 43 yards) in a limited role last week against Syracuse.

“Three To See,” Game #2
NC State (4-2) at #17 Duke (4-1), 8 pm, ACCN

The collateral damage of realignment and expansion includes the deterioration of long-standing rivalries, sometimes even those between neighbors who are members of the same conference.

During the 80-year period from 1924-2003, NC State and Duke played each other 79 times; the only exception, in 1944, came because of World War Two! Although the schools’ football stadiums are located only 22 miles apart, the Wolfpack’s trip to Durham this year marks its first road game against the Blue Devils since 2013 and just its third matchup against Duke during the 11-year Dave Doeren era.

All eyes will be on the quarterbacks in this one.

Will Duke’s star QB Riley Leonard even play? He suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury near the end of the Blue Devils’ loss to Notre Dame almost two weeks ago. Duke lists him as “day-to-day,” suggesting he might play against State, but Doeren wondered aloud at his press conference this week whether that was merely coachspeak from his counterpart Mike Elko. If Leonard can’t play, will strong-armed redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV be ready for such a big moment?

On the other side, where sophomore MJ Morris recently leapfrogged UVa transfer Brennan Armstrong on the Wolfpack’s QB depth chart, will Morris’ big plays continue to outweigh his many youthful mistakes?

Regardless of who is behind center for either team, those QBs will be facing a difficult challenge. Under Elko, a legendary defensive coordinator before taking the Duke head coaching job last season, the Blue Devils are #1 in the ACC in scoring defense (11.2 points per game). The Wolfpack defense, meanwhile, is giving up only three yards per carry and fewer than 100 rushing yards per game (both numbers rank third in the conference), suggesting that the Devils will need to throw the ball effectively to win.

“Three To See,” Game #3
Barton (5-1) at #12 Lenoir-Rhyne (6-0), 2 pm

Every year, as most of the FBS teams in North Carolina fall from relevancy one by one (e.g., see App State, Charlotte, ECU and Wake Forest so far this season), there are FCS teams (see below) and/or Division Two teams that step into the void and, to varying degrees, get to enjoy a bit more of the spotlight.

This year, both Barton and Lenoir-Rhyne fit the description, although going into their head-to-head matchup Saturday, they’ve arrived at their current positions via dramatically different journeys.

Barton, located in Wilson, stopped playing football way back in 1950, when its name was Atlantic Christian College. Barton announced its return to college football in 2019, when it hired coach Chip Hester (formerly the Catawba head coach and, more recently, North Carolina A&T’s offensive coordinator) and signed a 37-player recruiting class in preparation for competition the following year. After going 1-4 in 2020, 6-5 in 2021 and 4-7 last year, the Bulldogs are 5-1, including 3-1 in South Atlantic Conference play.

Lenoir-Rhyne, located in Hickory, started its football program in 1907 and has been an influential Division Two program for decades.

In 2013, under coach Mike Houston (now at ECU), the Bears played in the national championship game. Just since 2012, LRU has been in the Top 25 for 73 total weeks and has finished with a top-10 national ranking four times (2013, 2014, 2018, 2019). The Bears even have two of their former players on NFL rosters for the first time in program history; Kyle Dugger is a starting safety for the New England Patriots, and Dareke Young is a wide receiver (now on injured reserve) for the Seattle Seahawks.

Also Worth Noting

Coastal Carolina 27, Appalachian State 24 (Tuesday)

For the fourth time this season, Appalachian State (3-3) played its opponent down to the wire. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, they are now 1-3 in those nail-biter games, having lost 40-34 in double overtime at UNC, 22-19 on a 62-yard blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown in the final two minutes at Wyoming, and this week — in a game nationally televised on ESPN2 — 27-24 on a last-second field goal by Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers put up 569 yards of total offense and won for the first time in their seven trips to Boone.

Fourth-year App State coach Shawn Clark is likely to face increased scrutiny with the Mountaineers’ 3-3 start. Since App captured four straight Sun Belt Conference championships and won four consecutive bowl games from 2016 to 2019, three under Scott Satterfield (now at Cincinnati) and one under Eli Drinkwitz (now at Missouri), the Mountaineers’ records under Clark have been 9-3, 10-4, 6-6 and (so far) 3-3, with no league titles.

App has had only two non-winning seasons in the last 30 years, and Clark’s 6-6 mark last year was one of those two, so a second straight mediocre campaign would be viewed in Boone as a relatively quick and significant dropoff. In 2019, Drinkwitz led the Mountaineers to a 13-1 record and a #19 finish nationally, their first top-25 campaign as an FBS program. Immediately before their jump to the FBS level, the Mountaineers were an FCS superpower, with three national championships and 22 top-25 finishes over 27 seasons (1986-2012).

SMU 31, East Carolina 10 (Thursday—@ONSTailgate)

Fifth-year ECU coach Mike Houston, leading his first Pirates team without record-setting signal-caller Holton Ahlers (now with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks), appears to have violated one of the cardinal rules of the sport: Never get caught without a quarterback.

During their disappointing 1-5 start, the Pirates have been one of the worst offensive teams in the country. In their five games against FBS opponents, all losses, their offense has scored an average of only 11 points per game, which is about as bad as it gets in modern-day college football. Neither fourth-year sophomore Mason Garcia, who started the first two games of the season, nor fifth-year junior Alex Flinn, who has started the last four, has looked confident as a thrower, and ECU is completing only 50.7 percent of its passing attempts this season. That number ranks 127th of 130 FBS teams nationally.

ECU often plays pretty well on defense and special teams. On Thursday night, for example, the Pirates went toe-to-toe with SMU, one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference, for more than three quarters, just as they did against Marshall (one of the best teams in the Sun Belt) earlier this season. Early in the fourth quarter against the Mustangs, ECU had the ball while trailing only 14-10, but the Pirates’ four ensuing possessions were truly brutal — fumble/turnover, three-and-out, pick-six, three-and-out — and effectively ended their upset hopes.

Wake Forest (3-2) at Virginia Tech (2-4), 3:30 pm, ACCN

Whether you’re looking back at these teams’ struggles or looking ahead at their remaining schedules, it’s not hard to envision this matchup as a litmus test for each squad’s postseason hopes.

Coach Dave Clawson has taken Wake Forest to a school-record seven consecutive bowl games, but the Demon Deacons have struggled mightily on offense since the offseason transfer of star quarterback Sam Hartman to Notre Dame. New QB Mitch Griffis is in his fourth season at Wake, so he has had plenty of time in the Deacons’ system, but he often has held the ball too long on passing plays, resulting in far too many sacks. In their first two ACC games, losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson, the Deacs averaged only 14 points per game.

Coach Brent Pry, who had Clawson as his position coach for one season (1991) at Buffalo during his college playing days, is off to the same kind of rough start at Virginia Tech that Clawson experienced during his first two seasons (3-9, 3-9) at Wake. Under Pry, a first-time head coach who finished 3-8 last season in his Tech debut, the 2-4 Hokies rank among the lowest-scoring ACC offenses (23.5 points per game) for the second year in a row.

Open Week: #9 FCS NC Central (5-1), #14 FCS Western Carolina (5-1)

Two FCS programs in North Carolina, while off this week, may be in the process of making the right kind of history. Six games into their 11-game regular seasons, #9 NC Central (5-1) and #14 Western Carolina (5-1) each has a shot at a truly special campaign.

The Eagles, who jumped from Division Two to the FCS level in 2011, are ranked in the FCS national top 10 for the first time in program history. The 2022 HBCU national champion, NC Central likely will be favored in all five of its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchups down the stretch. If the Eagles can go 10-1 in the regular season, then win the Dec. 16 Celebration Bowl to repeat as the HBCU national champion, their 2023 campaign likely would be regarded as the best in school history.

The Catamounts, who haven’t finished in the FCS Top 25 since 1984, won a 52-50 thriller at #24 Chattanooga last Saturday to set up another of the biggest regular-season games in program history. (We’re bringing the Old North State Tailgate to Cullowhee for the first time for this one!) WCU will host #4 Furman next Saturday (Oct. 21). The winner of that game will be a virtual lock for the FCS playoffs and the favorite to capture the Southern Conference championship, which the Catamounts (a SoCon member since 1976) have never won.

ACC/NC Week Seven Football Schedule
(All games Saturday unless otherwise noted)


Coastal Carolina 27, Appalachian State 24 (Tues.)
SMU 31, East Carolina 10 (Thurs.)
Syracuse (4-2) at #4 Florida State (5-0), noon, ABC
Navy (2-3) at Charlotte (1-4), 2 pm, ESPN+
Wake Forest (3-2) at Virginia Tech (2-4), 3:30 pm, ACCN
#14 Louisville (6-0) at Pittsburgh (1-4), 6:30 pm, CW
#25 Miami (4-1) at #12 North Carolina (5-0), 7:30 pm, ABC
NC State (4-2) at #17 Duke (4-1), 8 pm, ACCN


Davidson (3-2) at Butler (4-2), 1 pm
Elon (3-3) at Villanova (4-2), 1 pm, FloSports
Gardner-Webb (2-3) at Austin Peay (3-2), 2 pm, ESPN+
North Carolina A&T (1-4) at #8 Delaware (4-1), 3 pm, FloSports
Open Week: Campbell (3-3), #9 NC Central (5-1), #14 Western Carolina (5-1).

Division Two

Fairmont State (5-1) at UNC Pembroke (3-3), noon
St. Augustine’s (0-6) at Johnson C Smith (4-2), 1 pm
Winston-Salem State (2-4) at Shaw (2-4), 1 pm
Elizabeth City State (1-5) at Lincoln-PA (3-3), 1 pm
Mars Hill (4-1) at Emory & Henry (3-3), 1 pm
Livingstone (2-4) at Fayetteville State (4-2), 2 pm
Barton (5-1) at #12 Lenoir-Rhyne (6-0), 2 pm
Limestone (3-3) at Wingate (4-2), 3 pm
Catawba (3-3) at Newberry (3-3), 4 pm
Chowan (0-6) at West Georgia (3-2), 6 pm

Division Three

Brevard (3-3) at Methodist (1-4), 1 pm
Shenandoah (3-2) at Guilford (2-3), 1 pm
Greensboro (0-6) at NC Wesleyan (1-4), 6 pm