Duke, UNC play Saturday for Victory Bell, Coastal Division Title

Duke players celebrate with the Victory Bell trophy after their win last October against UNC.

Duke players celebrate with the Victory Bell trophy after their win last October against UNC.

Duke has been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. A VERY long time. With a win on Saturday, the Blue Devils will win the ACC Coastal Division championship and play in their first ACC Championship Game. Only one little problem: they have to go to Kenan Memorial Stadium and knock off a surging North Carolina Tar Heels team that has won 5 straight games. It could be the biggest game Duke has ever played.

They have already surpassed many expectations under head coach David Cutcliffe. Last season they won the Victory Bell Game against UNC for the first time since 2003 and made their first bowl game appearance in more than 20 years. This season has been nothing short of great for Duke: currently the Blue Devils are on a 7 game winning streak, are 9-2 overall, and #24 in the BCS rankings (their first ever BCS appearance).

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora wants to make sure they don’t celebrate a Coastal Division title, too. According to freshman wide receiver Ryan Switzer, Fedora has played the footage of Duke players spray painting the Victory Bell trophy royal blue after last year’s game nonstop in the locker and weight training rooms at Kenan Stadium. Fedora knows the importance of this victory for his team. “They’re the no. 24 team in the country and they’re on a seven-game winning streak. We’re excited for our seniors playing their last home game in Kenan Stadium so it should be a heck of a football game,” Fedora said Wednesday.

After a disheartening loss to Miami on October 17th, North Carolina has turned its season around quite nicely. The Tar Heels have won five straight games to become bowl eligible at 6-5, and North Carolina’s defense has stepped up nicely. Senior defensive end Kareem Martin currently ranks fifth in the country with 11 sacks. But more impressive for North Carolina has been their improved offense, especially from underclassmen.

Fedora broke out the trick plays once again last Saturday, and Carolina scored on a 56 yard pass off a flea flicker. Throw in a double pass TD from a wide receiver against N.C. State, a reverse pass to a quarterback for a TD against Virginia, and four punt returns in the last three weeks (all by Switzer), and you can see that Carolina is playing with confidence. UNC’s last 23 touchdowns have been scored by freshmen or sophomores, with 11 of those touchdowns coming last week in an 80-20 drubbing of Old Dominion.

UNC freshman WR Ryan Switzer has 4 punt returns for touchdowns (1st in the country) in the last three weeks.

UNC freshman WR Ryan Switzer has 4 punt returns for touchdowns (1st in the country) in the last three weeks.

Both teams will use a dual-quarterback system of sorts. For Duke, both Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette are expected to play. “You definitely have to be aware (of who’s under center) because they don’t do the same things” Fedora said of both Blue Devil signal-callers. Meanwhile, UNC will feature sophomore Marquise Williams, a proven threat passing AND running. There will also be talented receivers on both sides: Duke WR Jamison Crowder has over 1,000 yards receiving this season, and North Carolina TE Eric Ebron is expected to be a first round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

So it’s five straight wins versus seven straight wins. If Duke wins, they win the Coastal Division. If UNC wins, they win a share of the Coastal Division (with Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Virginia Tech – who would win the tiebreaker). There are BCS standings and bowl implications on the line. And of course, the bell. As Dick Vitale would say, this game is going to be “AWESOME BABY!!!”



The Burden of Bowl Ineligibility

It’s almost college bowl season again. But as we enter into the realm of million dollar payouts, some teams that would have made big bucks this month are stuck at home because they are ineligible. Several teams are missing out on pretty hefty paydays.

UNC- $2 Million

RB Giovani Bernard (#26) led North Carolina to an 8-4 record in 2012.

RB Giovani Bernard (#26) led North Carolina to an 8-4 record in 2012.

When UNC hired former Miami coach Butch Davis in 2007, it marked the beginning of a new era for Carolina football. However, Davis was placed under NCAA investigation in 2010 due to improper benefits given by agents to UNC players and for inappropriate benefits given by academic tutors.

Davis left North Carolina on poor terms. His actions not only resulted in the suspensions of three star players in 2010, but the NCAA placed UNC on probation for three years and ruled that UNC would be bowl ineligible in 2012. Now in a new era under first year head coach Larry Fedora, the Tar Heels finished 8-4 this season, and 5-3 in the ACC. Had the Tar Heels been eligible, they would have likely earned the ACC’s third bowl spot in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, which would have netted North Carolina more than $2 million.

Miami- $2.3 Million

Miami has struggled since they left the Big East in 2003. However, the program has also had run-ins with the NCAA. Miami is currently under investigation for academic compliance issues with the NCAA and the University of Miami. For the second straight year under head coach Al Golden, the Hurricanes have self-imposed a bowl ban.

Had Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC) been bowl eligible, it would have likely played in the Russell Athletic Bowl, taking the ACC’s third spot and earning nearly $2.3 million.

Penn State- $63.5 Million

Penn State is the epitome of a controversial program. BEcause of the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal and head coach Joe Paterno’s cover-up, the NCAA handed down very strict penalties against Penn State. In addition to vacating 112 wins from 1998-2011, the NCAA fined Penn State $60 million (a season’s average revenue) and placed the Nittany Lions on a four-year bowl ban.

This year, under new head coach Bill O’Brien, Penn State finished 8-4 overall, with a 6-2 conference record. They would have likely earned the fourth Big Ten bowl spot behind Ohio State, Michigan, and Nebraska, which would have landed the Nittany Lions in the Gator Bowl, adding $3.5 million to Penn State’s missed revenues.

Ohio State- $9 Million, Big Ten Title, National Championship Bid

Led by QB Braxton Miller (left) and head coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State finished the season 12-0.

Led by QB Braxton Miller (left) and head coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State finished their 2012 season 12-0.

Jim Tressel was well-respected at Ohio State. In ten seasons, Tressel won six Big Ten Championships and the 2002 BCS National Championship. However, Tressel also cost the Buckeyes another shot at a national title this year. Tressel failed to report to the University and to the NCAA that several players had a financial relationship with a local business owner. The NCAA also imposed a bowl ban on the Buckeyes for 2012 because of the improper benefits given to its athletes.

Urban Meyer was selected to lead the Buckeyes in 2012, and he did not disappoint. Ohio State finished 12-0, third in the AP Poll. Had they been eligible, they likely would have been selected to play Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game, earning the Buckeyes $9 million.