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Duke-UNC matchup headlines Week 9 in ACC

JOEDY McCREARY (AP Sports Writer)
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Tar Heels, Blue Devils meet in ACC rivalry game

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, left, speaks with an official during an NCAA college football game against Georgia Tech in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

Here are things to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Week 9:

GAME OF THE WEEK

Duke at North Carolina. The ACC's highest-profile basketball rivalry takes center stage in football with significant ramifications in the cloudy Coastal Division. The Blue Devils (4-3, 2-2) and the Tar Heels (3-4, 2-2) are both in the mix behind division leaders Virginia and Pittsburgh with the loser seemingly playing itself out of the race. Duke has won three straight in the series, a run that coincided with current New York Giants QB Daniel Jones' time as the starter, and is looking for its first four-game winning streak against North Carolina since the 1950s.

BEST MATCHUP

Virginia defense vs. Louisville offense. The Cavaliers' defense has kept them in control of the Coastal Division race, ranking second in the conference in each of the four main stat categories and holding five of the seven opponents to 17 or fewer points. They'll face a test from a big-play Louisville offense under new coach Scott Satterfield. The Cardinals averaged 490.5 total yards through six games before they were held to 263 yards by No. 4 Clemson, and they lead the league with 23 plays of 30 or more yards and 15 that have gone for 40-plus yards. Virginia has allowed an ACC-fewest three 40-yard plays on the season.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

An argument could be made that the ACC is the most competitive of the power conferences. The average margin of victory in league games is 13.9 points - the closest of any of the five major conferences - and more than half of the 27 ACC games played so far have been decided by eight or fewer points. Eight of them have been decided by a field goal or less, the most of any major conference.

LONG SHOT

Perhaps Syracuse can find a way to keep it close as a 10+-point underdog against Florida State. It's been a disappointing year for the Orange (3-4, 0-3), who started the season in the national rankings but now find themselves as the only ACC team without a conference victory. The Seminoles are dealing with even more injuries - WR Ontaria Wilson (shoulder) is the latest to go down - heading into this matchup of desperate Atlantic Division teams. Florida State has played four one-score games, going 1-3 in them.

IMPACT PLAYER

North Carolina QB Sam Howell has been tough to stop during his freshman season with the Tar Heels. Howell matched a school record with five touchdown passes in last week's six-overtime loss to Virginia Tech, and has reached the 300-yard mark in three of his last four games. Next up is a Duke team that has held six straight opponents to fewer than 270 yards passing.

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