Leading up to the first game of the season, Keeping It Heel will be doing opponent previews in reverse order.
This Week: Duke
In Larry Fedora’s first two seasons at North Carolina, his Tar Heels’ teams went 0-2 against Duke.
They lost both games by a combined five points. In the two seasons since, his Tar Heel’s teams are 2-0 against Duke, beating the Blue Devils by 60 points in the two wins.
Will this season be like the last two or will Duke find a way to keep it close and sneak out with the Victory Bell?
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe. Career Record 92-82 (48-53 at Duke). This will be his ninth season at Duke which is his second head coaching stop. Cutcliffe has the honor of coaching both Manning Brothers. He coached Peyton at Tennessee as the assistant Head coach/offensive Coordinator/QB coach. He later coached Eli at Ole Miss as the head coach.
Best Graduate: QB Sonny Jurgeson, five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and NFL Champion (this was before the Super Bowl Era). Career 2,433 completions for 32,244 yards and 255 touchdowns (top 20 all time). Jurgeson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Second Best Graduate: LB Bob Matheson, two-time Super Bowl champion, played for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins. Career he had 12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. He also had the “53” defense named after him due to his versatility and because he wore the number 53.
Last Season: Went 8-5 (4-4 in ACC play). Finished fourth in the Coastal Division. Season highlights include starting the season 6-1 and getting as high as 22nd in the AP poll.
They followed that up by losing four in a row including a 35 point road loss to rival UNC. The losing streak was initiated by the infamous lateral six against Miami, a game Duke fans still feel that they won.
They finished the season by winning their last two games including their first bowl win since 1961.
This Season: The schedule makers did the Blue Devils no favors this season. Not only did eight of their opponents finish last season with a winning record, seven of which made bowl games, but four of their last six are on the road. With such a tough slate including games against Louisville and Notre Dame, Duke may finally return to reality with a disappointing 5-7 season ending their four year bowl streak.
Best Player: QB Thomas Sirk. Last season, he threw for 2625 yards with 16 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. He also ran for 803 yards and an additional 8 touchdowns. Sirk is not much of a passer. Last season he threw for over 300 yards once and failed to throw for over 200 yards six times, though the Devils did go 4-2 in those games.
Sirk’s value is in the run. He rushed for over 50 yards in a game nine times last season and Duke went 6-3 in those games, including the Miami game.
Matchup: Thursday November 10th in Durham at 7:30pm
Prediction: Oh how the tables have turned. Two years ago, I would’ve written how this game would be a close hard fought victory, where the team that makes just the right plays ends up taking home the bell.
Two years later and the question is, if Carolina is on the ball, does Duke really have the talent to keep up with the Heels. The last two victories would support the latter and unless Mitch Trubisky isn’t at least a step above Bren Renner, Fedora may just have Cutcliffe’s number.
Final score: UNC 56, Duke 28. Sure the QB is different but the results really shouldn’t be.
Trubisky connects with Mack Hollins for three really long touchdowns and the Heels hold on to the Victory Bell for a third consecutive season.
By the time this game airs, the Heels should not only be well on their way to another bowl game, but another 10 win season. If things continue to break right this will be just another feather in the Heels run to a second consecutive Coastal Championship.