College Football’s Week Ahead for the Triangle and beyond

One neighbor helped out Duke earlier this season. Might another on Saturday? Duke, which plays lowly Syracuse on Saturday, has a one-game cushion over Georgia Tech (plus the tiebreak edge) in the not-so-chaotic Coastal, but the Blue Devils wouldn’t mind at all if N.C. State could do what North Carolina did on Oct. 18 and knock off the Yellow Jackets on Saturday. A win would make N.C. State bowl eligible. UNC and ECU take a week off to rediscover themselves.

Duke at Syracuse, 12:30 p.m.

Syracuse was the slump-buster for N.C. State, as the Wolfpack finally broke Dave Doeren’s 0-for-12 streak in ACC play with a 24-17 win in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

Self-inflicted mistakes doomed the Orange: true freshman quarterback A.J. Long threw two interceptions, one of which was returned 82 yards for the go-ahead touchdown by the Wolfpack. Long also fumbled twice, and N.C. State recovered the second in the fourth quarter. That turnover set up the game’s final touchdown. To make matters worse, Long took eight sacks, which also speaks to the quality of his offensive line.

Injuries are mounting for the Orange, while victories remain elusive. At this point, with games remaining against Duke, Pittsburgh and Boston College, chances that Syracuse (3-6, 1-4 ACC) makes a bowl are slim to none.

Looking for a bright spot? Kicker Cole Murphy is 11-for-13 on the year and has made 50-yard attempts in back-to-back weeks. Laura Keeley

Georgia Tech at N.C. State, 12:30 p.m.

Georgia Tech (7-2) has beaten every team on its schedule from outside the state of North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets' two losses came to Duke (31-25 on Oct. 11) and North Carolina (48-43 on Oct. 18). The last time an out-of-state team lost to all three Triangle schools was Clemson in 1998.

The Jackets (4-2 ACC) are coming off a 35-10 home win against Virginia. Quarterback Justin Thomas threw for three touchdowns and running back Synjyn Days ran for a career-high 147 yards. Thomas has been an effective thrower this season, easily replacing transfer Vad Lee, with 14 touchdown passes. Thomas has also rushed for 721 yards and four touchdowns.

As usual under coach Paul Johnson, the Jackets lead the ACC with 319.7 rushing yards per game. Johnson had been excellent against foes from North Carolina (12-2 before this season) but has a tough closing stretch after this trip to N.C. State. The Yellow Jackets finish with Clemson and Georgia.

Since the league split into two divisions in 2005, this will be Georgia Tech’s third trip to Carter-Finley Stadium and first since 2011.

Poll watch

Expect changes in the playoff committee’s second poll, which will be released Tuesday.

No. 4 Mississippi suffered its second loss, this one at home, so it will slide out of contention. Look for Oregon to take the Rebels’ spot in the work-in-progress final four. The Ducks were No. 5 and dominated Stanford. They face a tough task Saturday, however, traveling to ranked Utah.

Nos. 1 and 2 Mississippi State and Florida State won, but neither was overly impressive. The Bulldogs escaped disaster by beating Arkansas 17-10 at home, and FSU escaped a 21-0 deficit to win at Louisville. It should be easier this week. Mississippi State plays Tennessee-Martin, a tuneup for its Nov. 15 showdown at Alabama. FSU hosts Virginia, which has lost three straight.

It’s a big week for Alabama and Texas Christian, Nos. 6 and 7 in the first poll. After looking unbeatable in a 59-0 win against a ranked Texas A&M team, the Tide was just so-so in a 34-20 win at Tennessee. It will travel to Louisiana State on Saturday.

TCU needed a last-second field goal to slip past No. 20 West Virginia. Road wins matter, especially against ranked teams. TCU returns home Saturday to face another ranked team, No. 9 Kansas State.