We’re a week into the season and my initial projections are already out of date. (Well, not the Duke one – two out of three, anyway.) Heading into Week 2, let’s recalibrate expectations for Duke and UNC while adding predictions for this week’s games. Speaking retroactively, I would have gone 1-2 last week had I predicted the opening games.
Applicable scenario from last week: Most likely. “There are enough coin-flip games on the schedule for the Blue Devils to get back to a bowl game at 6-6, but they may have to sweep Army, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest at the end to do it.”
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This week’s update: Still on course for 6-6 or better after the expected big-play bonanza against N.C. Central – which didn’t alter the Eagles’ position as MEAC favorite, although Howard’s win at UNLV certainly shifted the landscape. Northwestern is a mild favorite in Durham so this will be a perfect barometer of where the Blue Devils really stand and say a lot about how their season is going to go.
Saturday prediction: Duke 27, Northwestern 24.
Applicable scenario from last week: Most likely. “The inexperience will make this an erratic, mercurial team, capable of beating almost anyone and losing to anyone. Equal numbers of upset wins and bad losses will leave the Tar Heels 7-5.”
This week’s update: Sounds about right. The home loss to California was definitely a bad one given the way it went down, pointing toward 4-8 given the QB issues and “catastrophics” on defense, to use Larry Fedora’s new favorite word, replacing “explosives.” And it doesn’t get any easier with Louisville and Lamar Jackson rolling into town, although UNC will presumably be better on offense with Chazz Surratt taking most of the snaps. The Tar Heels can get themselves back on track with an upset, but more likely they’re looking at 1-2 going into the Duke game and hoping to get somewhere in the 6-6 neighborhood.
Saturday prediction: Louisville 40, North Carolina 21.
Applicable scenario from last week: Worst case. “A season-opening loss to South Carolina is a harbinger of things to come, with the Wolfpack unable to reach its potential and falling to 6-6 … or worse.”
This week’s update: Based on the way N.C. State actually played, score notwithstanding, the situation isn’t that dire, but beating South Carolina certainly was supposed to be the first step toward a breakthrough season. The Wolfpack ramped up the degree of difficulty considerably. Putting up the same kind of giddy offensive numbers while excising the silly mistakes on both sides of the ball against Marshall would go a long way toward restoring confidence in an 8-4 or 9-3 finish.
Saturday prediction: N.C. State 35, Marshall 14.
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock