By beating Duke 45-20, North Carolina didn’t just get to win their huge rivalry game; they also made sure the Blue Devils won’t play in the ACC championship game, handing the ACC Coastal division title to Georgia Tech.
After two consecutive wins for Duke in this rivalry by a combined margin of five points, the Victory Bell is back in the hands of the usually better team. The Tar Heels once again failed to make that leap from mediocrity into contention for division title as they’ve been promising to do for almost a decade, but they will be in a bowl game, and making a mess of Duke’s hopes and plans makes the ending to a so-so season so much better.
Duke can only blame themselves, losing two home games when they had the spot in the game against Florida State almost clinched. First it was a one point loss to Virginia Tech last week, and now getting routed by the Tar Heels, getting outscored by 21 points in the first half and not having enough firepower to stage a comeback. Their earlier win this season against Georgia Tech suddenly becomes meaningless and redundant.
It was a very big day for Marquise Williams, throwing for 276 yards and running for 98, responsible for four touchdowns. The Tar Heels ran for a total of 316 yards, with T.J. Logan scoring a touchdown and rushing for 116 and Romar Morris adding 96. Both teams turned the ball over three times, but North Carolina were the only ones able to score a touchdown directly off of one of them, not to mention out-gaining Duke by over 200 yards, mostly due to the running game. The Blue Devils had only 116 yards on the ground.
Duke were the most “careful” team in the ACC before the North Carolina game, but have turned the ball over six times in their loss to VT and UNC. North Carolina are the kings of takeovers this season and didn’t disappoint, even against a conservative and cautious team. Duke still have a conference game against Wake Forest to play, but it doesn’t mean anything anymore, except maybe getting more wins and a bigger bowl game to go to.
Georgia Tech go to the championship game against Florida State for the second time in three years, but in a very different kind of momentum. That team was only 5-3 in the conference and 7-7 overall by the end of the season. They did lost by just six points to the Seminoles, but that was also a weaker Florida State team. The Yellow Jackets are 9-2 heading into the ‘hatred’ game against Georgia, ranked, and with a better shot of causing a huge upset thanks to North Carolina doing their dirty work for them.