Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, November 26th, 3:30 PM
Records: UNC 6-5, 2-5 ACC; Duke 3-8, 1-6 ACC
Guess we can call this the Tryptophan Bowl.
Like the sleep-inducing chemical found in a Thanksgiving turkey, you can be forgiven if, on paper, this game looks like a snoozer. UNC, after a 5-1 start, has limped to the end of the season with four losses in its last five games. The only ACC team in worse shape than the Heels over the last month or so is Duke, who comes into Kenan on a six-game slide.
The ongoing meme for the David Cutcliffe era at Duke is that the Blue Devils have been restored to respectability, which is technically true but a loss to Carolina will doom Duke to back-to-back 3-9 seasons. The season got off to an inauspicious start with a loss to FCS Richmond and a blowout loss to Stanford, but the Devils then reeled off three wins and looked like the ship was righted before injuries and the meat of the ACC season kn0cked them off track. Meanwhile Carolina has slogged through their brutal late season run being competitive for the most part, but other than putting it all together for the homecoming win over Wake Forest, the Heels have not found much success.
It would be safe to say there is a fatalistic vibe hanging over this game. Everett Withers is seemingly a lame duck coach, so the team is not playing for his job. UNC is bowl eligible, but Carolina is pretty much locked in to either the Independence Bowl or the Military Bowl, so the team is not playing for bowl positioning, nor is Duke playing for a chance to ruin UNC's bowl chances. It's Thanksgiving weekend, so many student who might have attended the game just because will not be on campus. Duke is simply playing out the string and UNC is not playing for much more. Oh, and UNC has won 20 of the last 21 games against Duke in the series.
The one redeeming thing of all this is that, for the most part, Carolina-Duke games have been entertaining and intense, and there's no reason to expect any different for this game. Duke's offensive strength is in its passing game, and that has been UNC's defensive Achilles heel all year. There is also the question of whether Gio Bernard, who is cleared to play, will be at 100% and which UNC offense will show up: the Louisville/NCSU one or the Wake/Clemson one?
While there is no reason to think the Victory Bell will not maintain its near-permanent residence in Chapel Hill, I don't have faith in UNC being a two-touchdown favorite, either.
UNC 24 Duke 17