• 46°

UNC vs. Miami a pivotal game as ACC football season winds down

By Hank Kurz Jr.

AP Sports Writer

In the year of the coronavirus pandemic, traditions — and logic — matter not.

There are five football games in the Atlantic Coast Conference this weekend, all important to the teams playing but none involving No. 2 Notre Dame or No. 4 Clemson. The league gave the Fighting Irish and the Tigers the weekend off before they meet in the ACC Game of the Year, Part II, in Charlotte on Dec. 19 for the ACC title.

But the 10 teams that are playing are focused on this week.

No. 9 Miami and the 20th-ranked Tar Heels meet at North Carolina in a pivotal matchup that will determine bowl position. Virginia will visit Virginia Tech and renew a fierce rivalry that grew more intense a year ago when Bronco Mendenhall’s Cavaliers ended a 15-year losing streak in the series with a 39-30 victory.

The rest of the games — Wake Forest at Louisville, Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech and Duke at Florida State — largely involve the bottom half of the ACC standings, with only Wake Forest (4-3, 3-3) having a winning record. The Demon Deacons, because of the pandemic, have played four fewer games than expected and are slated to play two more.

But the most of college football looking at the ACC are talking about Notre Dame and Clemson. The Fighting Irish won the first, at home, 47-40 in overtime, when the Tigers were without Trevor Lawrence because of a COVID-19 infection. The Heisman Trophy candidate and probable No. 1 choice in the NFL draft is back for the rematch.

The league traditionally wants all eyes on its two top teams battling for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but this year on championship Saturday, Georgia Tech also will play at Miami and Florida State will play at Wake Forest.

While it could be a case of television money driving the proverbial bus in the ACC, coaches and players refuse to see it that way.

“These guys are competitors. We are a young football team. We’re one of the youngest teams in college football. We need every rep that we can get,” said Florida State coach Mike Norvell, whose team (2-6, 1-6) has played only twice in five weeks. “I understand the challenges that come with that, but our guys are excited about being able to go through a week and implement a plan to do all you can to prepare for a game.

“When that’s taken away from you, it is emotional … we want to play,” he said.

Duke junior running back Mataeo Durant will get his last chance for the year at Florida State on Saturday and isn’t inclined to pass up the opportunity to play again.

“It’s all about competing. Everyone wants to go out there and compete to the best of their abilities,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all play the same game and so we’re in it for the same reasons, trying to go out and get a win every weekend.”

All teams hope to be playing games that matter at the end of the season, and that’s the case for the Hurricanes and Tar Heels. With a dwindling list of bowl games available, North Carolina coach Mack Brown has told his players “it’s their responsibility to stay clean so they get to play, because that’s not happening in a lot of different places.”

That is true for after the game against the Hurricanes as well, he said.

“We do the same thing with bowl games. We’ve told them that: ‘Here is the list of ACC bowl games,’ when one cancels out. We’ve told them the Pinstripe Bowl will not be played this year, the Sun Bowl will not be played this year,” he said. “ ‘Coach, do you think they’re going to have enough bowls for us to go to?’ ‘Yes, so plan on having bowl season.’ ”

Comments

Local

Board of elections discusses upgrading voting machines, making precinct changes

News

Lawmakers finalize how state will spend COVID-19 funds

Local

Salisbury Station one of several ‘hot spots’ included in NCDOT rail safety study

Education

Essie Mae Kiser Foxx appeal denied, school considering options

News

Iredell County votes to move Confederate memorial to cemetery

Nation/World

Lara Trump may have eyes on running for a Senate seat

Local

Rowan among counties in Biden’s disaster declaration from November floods

Local

PETA plans protest at Salisbury Police Department on Friday

BREAKING NEWS

Essie Mae Kiser Foxx appeal denied, charter revoked

Coronavirus

29 new positives, no new COVID-19 deaths reported

Crime

Blotter: Woman charged with drug crimes

News

Nesting no more: Eagles appear to have moved on from Duke’s Buck Station

Business

The Smoke Pit leaving downtown Salisbury for standalone building on Faith Road

Education

Shoutouts

High School

High school football: Hornets’ Gaither set the tone against West

Local

Salisbury to show off new fire station

Education

Livingstone College to host virtual Big Read events this month

Local

City makes some appointments to local boards, holds off on others to seek women, appointees of color

Education

Education briefs: RCCC instructor honored by Occupational Therapy Association

Local

Second quarter financial update shows promising outlook for city’s budget

Columnists

Genia Woods: Let’s talk about good news in Salisbury

Local

City attorney will gather more information for Salisbury nondiscrimination ordinance

Education

North Hills planning to hold May fundraiser in person

East Spencer

Developers aim to transform former Dunbar School site into multi-purpose community development