DG’s Week 9 College Football Preview:
#20 Duke-#18 Louisville, #4 FSU-Wake
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, because there are no games matching top-10 opponents this week, the focus will be on the six Power Five programs with unblemished records, four of which have road trips or neutral-site games against opponents with winning records, which is occasionally a recipe for an upset.

Here’s that lineup: #1 Georgia (7-0) versus Florida (5-2) in Jacksonville, #3 Ohio State (7-0) at Wisconsin (5-2), #4 Florida State (7-0) at Wake Forest (4-3), and #6 Oklahoma (7-0) at Kansas (5-2). Interestingly, the Sooners are only a 10-point favorite against the Jayhawks. Elsewhere among the unbeatens, #2 Michigan (7-0) is off this week, and #5 Washington (7-0) visits Stanford (2-5).

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

“Three To See,” Game #1

#20 Duke (5-2) at #18 Louisville (6-1), 3:30 pm, ESPN

This is a matchup of well-coached, well-balanced Top 25 football teams, which is a credit to two of the most impressive immediate-impact head coaches the ACC has seen in recent decades. The winner of this game will remain among the top contenders for a trip to the ACC championship game; the loser will fall into a pack of teams with two league losses.

First-year Louisville coach Jeff Brohm, a former Cardinals quarterback who has his team averaging 34.1 points per game, has at least three significant advantages in this one. The Cardinals (a four-point favorite) are at home, they’re coming off an open week, and they have a healthy, productive, experienced quarterback (sixth-year senior Jack Plummer).

Second-year Duke coach Mike Elko, previously a very successful defensive coordinator at Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Texas A&M, quickly has built one of the best defenses in the ACC. Led by tackle DeWayne Carter, linebacker Tre Freeman, safety Brandon Johnson and cornerback Myles Jones (a Texas A&M transfer), the Blue Devils are giving up an ACC-best 13.9 points per game, a number that ranks fifth nationally.

The uncertain availability of several key players makes this matchup particularly hard to gauge.

Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, a dangerous dual threat when healthy, re-injured his ankle (originally hurt Sept. 30 against Notre Dame) in the Devils’ loss at Florida State last week. If he can’t go against Louisville, redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV will get the nod. When Leonard was unavailable against NC State on Oct. 14, Belin directed a 24-3 win over the Wolfpack, but he completed only four passes (an approach unlikely to succeed against the much more explosive Cardinals) in that game, and he was ineffective against FSU in a relief role.

Louisville, meanwhile, lost starting guard Renato Brown (knee) for the season during its surprising 38-21 loss at Pitt on Oct. 14, and two other key players also are dealing with significant injuries. Star running back Jawhar Jordan (hamstring), the ACC’s second-leading rusher (94.4 yards per game), tried to play at Pitt but left the game after a single series and didn’t return. Fellow starter Jarvis Brownlee, who pairs with Quincy Riley in one of the ACC’s top cornerback duos, aggravated a foot injury against the Panthers and didn’t play after leaving the game in the second quarter.

“Three To See,” Game #2

#4 Florida State (7-0) at Wake Forest (4-3), noon, ABC

In the “Naked Gun” movie decades ago, acclaimed Italian opera singer Enrico Pallazzo — while working as a home plate umpire (IYKYK) — saved the queen of England from an assassination attempt by outfielder Reggie Jackson during a fictional baseball game.

In an actual football game last week, third-string Wake Forest quarterback Santino Marucci may have saved his team’s season from an assassination attempt by lowly Pittsburgh in Winston-Salem.

The Demon Deacons, whose seven-year bowl streak (best in program history) may have been in jeopardy with a loss to the Panthers, rallied behind Marucci, an obscure third-year scholarship player who had spent significant time on the scout team at other positions (running back-safety-tight end), scoring two touchdowns in the final 3:02 for a 21-17 victory.

Against Florida State (a 20-point favorite), of course, Wake faces a much more difficult task, no matter who plays quarterback. Starting QB Mitch Griffis and backup Michael Kern, who missed the Pitt game with injuries, have struggled badly this season, weighing down an offense that has plenty of talent at running back (Demond Claiborne, Justice Ellison), wide receiver (Jahmal Banks, Taylor Morin) and tight end (Cameron Hite). Against Pitt, Marucci completed only 12 of 21 passes for 151 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

This year’s Seminoles are absolutely loaded with talent, in all three phases of the game. They’re first in the ACC in scoring offense (41.6 ppg) and second in scoring defense (18.6 ppg). Their All-ACC candidates include quarterback Jordan Travis, running back Trey Benson, wide receiver Keon Coleman, tight end Jaheim Bell, defensive end Jared Verse, linebacker Kalen DeLoach, safety Shyheim Brown, cornerback Renardo Green, punter Alex Mastromanno and kicker Ryan Fitzgerald.

Although the Seminoles hold a lopsided advantage (30-9-1) in the all-time series against the Deacons, 10th-year Wake coach Dave Clawson is 2-0 against fourth-year FSU coach Mike Norvell. The Deacs have won the last three head-to-head matchups (in 2019, 2021 and 2022) in the rivalry, including two straight in Winston-Salem.

“Three To See,” Game #3

#17 North Carolina (6-1) at Georgia Tech (3-4), 8 pm, ACCN

Last year, when a 9-1 and highly ranked UNC team was a double-digit favorite against Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels not only lost the game, they ended up on a four-game losing streak to finish the season 9-5.

Now Carolina must make sure that its most recent shocking defeat, 31-27 to lowly Virginia last Saturday as a 24-point favorite in Chapel Hill, doesn’t derail this year’s high hopes. Those still include the possibility of a trip to the ACC championship game, although that’s realistic only if the Tar Heels can return to their very impressive early season form.

What the Cavaliers exposed most is that the Tar Heels, while outstanding in many other areas, are still not a dominant team at the line of scrimmage, especially on defense. Dead-last in the ACC in rushing offense, UVa gained a whopping 228 yards and three touchdowns on 54 rushing attempts against UNC. That success in the trenches, along with the unexpected inefficiency of the Tar Heels’ passing offense (some erratic throws by QB Drake Maye, more receiver drops), enabled the Wahoos to possess the ball for 37-plus minutes.

UNC (an 11-point favorite) faces a somewhat similar challenge at Georgia Tech, especially when the Tar Heels have the ball. The Yellow Jackets, along with Boston College and UVa, are the only ACC teams giving up more than 30 points per game. Specifically, Tech has been truly horrible against the run (ACC-worst 5.3 yards per carry and 228 yards per game), which suggests an enormous opportunity for UNC star Omarion Hampton, the ACC’s leading rusher (110 yards per game) and touchdown-maker (nine).

Meanwhile, UNC’s defensive unit, on which the brilliance and consistency of several players (end Kaimon Rucker, linebackers Cedric Gray and Power Echols, safety Alijah Huzzie) has been surrounded by inconsistency and unpredictability, must contend with a rejuvenated Georgia Tech offense.

Texas A&M transfer Haynes King is the ACC’s fourth-leading passer, at 262 yards per game, and leads the conference with 17 TD passes. King’s favorite target has been true freshman Eric Singleton Jr. (5-11/173), a speedy and elusive wide receiver who may remind UNC players, coaches and fans of 2022 Carolina star Josh Downs, who’s now in the NFL.

Week 9 ACC/NC College Football Schedule
(Saturday Unless Otherwise Indicated)


Syracuse (4-3) at Virginia Tech (3-4), 7:30 pm, ESPN (Thurs.)
Florida Atlantic (3-4) at Charlotte (2-5), 7:30 pm, ESPN2 (Fri.)
#4 Florida State (7-0) at Wake Forest (4-3), noon, ABC
UConn (1-6) at Boston College (4-3), noon, ACCN
Clemson (4-3) at NC State (4-3), 2 pm, CW
(Visit us at Backyard Bistro, near Carter-Finley; 11:30 am-1:30 pm)

Pittsburgh (2-5) at #14 Notre Dame (6-2), 3:30 pm, NBC
#21 Duke (5-2) at #18 Louisville (6-1), 3:30 pm, ESPN
Virginia (2-5) at Miami (5-2), 3:30 pm, ACCN
Southern Miss (1-6) at Appalachian State (3-4), 3:30 pm, ESPN+
East Carolina (1-6) at UTSA (4-3), 3:30 pm, ESPN+
#17 North Carolina (6-1) at Georgia Tech (3-4), 8 pm, ACCN


South Carolina State (3-4) at #10 NC Central (6-1), 7:30 pm, ESPNU (Thurs.)
#13 UT-Martin (6-1) at Gardner-Webb (3-4), 1:30 pm, ESPN+
North Carolina A&T (1-6) at Hampton (3-4), 2 pm, FloSports
Mercer (5-3) at #16 Western Carolina (5-2), 2:30 pm, ESPN+
Campbell (4-3) at Richmond (5-3), 3:30 pm, FloSports
Presbyterian (3-4) at Davidson (5-2), 7 pm
Open Week: Elon (4-4).

Division Two

UVa-Wise (2-6) at Mars Hill (6-1), 1 pm
Fayetteville State (6-2) at Shaw (2-6), 1 pm
Glenville State (4-3) at UNC Pembroke (5-3), 1 pm
Elizabeth City State (2-6) at Bowie State (4-4), 1 pm
West Alabama (3-4) at Chowan (0-8), 1 pm
Winston-Salem State (4-4) at Johnson C Smith (5-3), 2 pm
Barton (5-3) at Catawba (3-5), 4 pm
#7 Lenoir-Rhyne (8-0) at Wingate (5-3), 6 pm
St Augustine’s (0-8) at Livingstone (3-5), 6 pm

Division Three

Hampden-Sydney (4-3) at Guilford (2-5), 1 pm
Greensboro (0-8) at Southern Virginia (1-6), 1 pm
Brevard (4-3) at LaGrange (0-7), 3 pm
NC Wesleyan (3-4) at Methodist (1-6), 6 pm