UNC Football: Staff Picks Week Seven: @ Duke

Oct 1, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard (13), wide receiver Jalon Calhoun (5), and tight end Cole Finney (82) celebrate after a touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2022; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard (13), wide receiver Jalon Calhoun (5), and tight end Cole Finney (82) celebrate after a touchdown against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports /

The UNC football team travels down Tobacco Road for a primetime showdown with Duke on Saturday.

We are halfway through the college football season and the UNC football program is in first place in the ACC Coastal Division.

The defense appears to be improving, the offense is arguably the best in the league, and the Heels appear to have learned how to win on the road.

North Carolina controls its own destiny to make it to Charlotte for the ACC Title Game, but one of the main challengers appears to be this week’s opponent, the Duke Blue Devils.  Can the Heels improve to 4-0 on the road, retain the victory bell, and enter the bye week at 3-0 in ACC play and first place in the division?  Find out what our staff thinks below.

Nick Delahanty

I’m not going to lie: I’m very excited about this football game.

This heated rivalry, which mostly focuses on the battles on the basketball court, moves over to the gridiron, as both teams will be fighting for the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.

The first-place Tar Heels vs a Blue Devils team that is just one game behind them in the standings: you honestly couldn’t script it better!

If you’re Mack Brown and North Carolina, you have to feel pretty confident heading into this one. Even though you’re taking the short trip to hostile territory, the UNC football program seems to be finding its groove, as the offense continues to roll while the defense is starting to figure things out.

It’s simple: if North Carolina can slow down Duke’s running game, I believe they have a great chance to win this ball game. Based on what we’ve seen over the past two weeks, the Tar Heels’ defense has stepped up in this area, allowing less than 100 rushing yards in their victories over Virginia Tech and Miami.

This should be a good game for the most part, but I expect the Tar Heels to not only win but cover the spread as well.

Prediction: North Carolina 38, Duke 24

Isaac Schade

North Carolina did what it needed to do last week at Miami to move to 2-0 in the ACC
(the lone undefeated conference record in the Coastal Division) and 5-1 overall. The Tar
Heels take a much shorter road trip this week to Wallace Wade Stadium, seeking a 4-0
road start for the first time since 2016 and a sixth win which would move Mack Brown’s
team into bowl eligibility. Moreover, a 3-0 ACC record would further solidify UNC’s place
in the Coastal race.

Gene Chizik’s defense appears to be making strides, having held Virginia Tech to 10
and Miami to 24 in back-to-back weeks. Will the defense continue moving forward,
holding a third straight team under 25? Watch for more shuffling around of personnel as
necessary on the line while Power Echols and Cedric Gray continue to lead the way in
tackles from their linebacking positions.

On offense, while it felt like Drake Maye came back to earth a bit against Miami, it was
only because he didn’t have video game numbers (although still had a more-than-
acceptable 300 yards passing and two touchdown passes) and the Tar Heels needed
an extended fourth-quarter drive (which he proficiently led them on over the span of
8:21).  A big question is running back. Will Caleb Hood be ready to go or will Omarion
Hampton move back into the starting role?

The Heels are favored (-7) and will not only win but cover that line; although I project the
teams will fall short of the over (67.5).

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Duke 24

Mark DeMott

The Tar Heels have regrouped after a disappointing loss to Notre Dame by winning their first two conference games and taking an early lead in the Coastal Division standings.  Much like in the week prior to the Notre Dame game, I feel that the Tar Heels have a golden opportunity to return to the national stage and make a statement this weekend.

The only thing standing between UNC and bowl eligibility, a spot in first place of the Coastal Division at the bye week, and an almost certain appearance in the AP Poll (UNC is currently at the top of the others receiving votes category) is the rival Duke Blue Devils.  Duke is overachieving in Mike Elko’s first season, currently sitting at 4-2 overall and 1-1 in ACC play, with the two losses coming on the road in one-possession games against Kansas and Georgia Tech.

As far as the matchup is concerned, I feel that UNC has the more talented unit on both sides of the ball.  Duke’s defense has been solid so far this season but has yet to face an offense with as many weapons as UNC.  They allowed 35 points and over 500 yards at Kansas, and I believe that Drake Maye and company will come out hot after not scoring a touchdown in the second half against Miami (the first time all season they didn’t score a TD in a half this year).

The Duke offense has been pretty good this season, but with the strides made in the past two weeks, I think Carolina should be able to prevent them from exploding on Saturday.  If the defense can get some first-quarter stops, and maybe force a turnover or two, UNC could take control of this one early and not look back.

I think UNC seizes this week’s opportunity and beats Duke convincingly to position themselves at the top of the Coastal Division going into the bye week and home stretch of the season.

Prediction: North Carolina 42, Duke 24

Aaron Conrad

For two weeks now we have seen the UNC defense be just a little bit better. I feel like defense is something I have mentioned every week when doing these predictions.

Mainly because I am not worried about the offense. Drake Maye recovered from a few big turnovers and continued to drive the offense. Duke will put pressure on the running game so I look for Maye to air it out a bit. On offense, Duke is similar to what is happened with the Carolina defense.

They are still putting it all together. I look for the bell to stay in Chapel Hill for another year.

Prediction: North Carolina 45, Duke 28

Staff Standings

Isaac: 5-1

Mark: 5-1

Aaron: 5-1

Nick: 4-2

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