The 2012-2013 college football season starts on Friday night for Triangle-area teams and the NC State Wolfpack will lead it off as it meets the Tennessee Volunteers in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.
Both the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils will then take to the field on Saturday as the Tar Heels host the Elon Phoenix at Kenan Stadium at 12:30 p.m. while the Blue Devils will face the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers at Wallace Wade Stadium at 7 p.m.
Coaches for all three teams are excited and have their teams ready to kick off the new season with the goals of winning this year’s ACC championship and earning a postseason bowl bid.
Wolfpack raring to go
Head coach Tom O’Brien emphasized his team’s excitement in playing its first game of the season during a recent Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) weekly teleconference.
“This football team is very excited about the opportunity that has presented itself to go play in Atlanta against a program the stature of the University of Tennessee,” O’Brien said.
“We’re still in the middle of preparations – we have a couple more days here to go but we look forward to the opportunity of playing Friday night.”
Facing a nationally recognized program with six NCAA championships in its history, the Volunteers will present the Wolfpack with the challenge it is looking for to start the season.
“Well, the first game definitely isn’t the end all game that you’re going to play, but there are definitely special games and this is definitely one of them,” O’Brien continued.
“It’s a great opportunity for us and we are looking at it that way.”
With 11 returning starters, O’Brien doesn’t expect his team be too overwhelmed playing an SEC team in front of big crowd in a venue like the Georgia Dome, and is looking to put a good effort forward to start the season at 1-0.
Tar Heels searching for a new identity
Up the road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina will host in-state school Elon University in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
New Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora has been waiting for the opportunity to get his team on the field, and as he put it during his opening remarks during the teleconference: “Ready or not, it’s here.”
“The season is here. We’re in game-week mode. The kids have worked extremely hard and had a really good camp and now we’re ready to find out who the Tar Heels are going to be this year.”
Fedora takes over a program that is under a one-year postseason ban and will cope with reduced scholarship numbers for the next three seasons.
As a result, the team has a few players on its roster that made it through camp who are also participating on other Tar Heels teams.
“Yeah, I have had that situation,” Fedora said.
“If a kid feels like he can perform well in more than one sport, I’m all for it.”
With the NCAA sanctions that the program is working under as well as the academic scandal that the entire university is dealing with as a result of them, it is evident that Fedora is looking to get his team off to a good start.
“Our focus has been on the Tar Heels and who we are, because we don’t have an identity yet,” Fedora stated.
“We won’t have an identity until after the game Saturday.”
Blue Devils down but not out
With the recent announcement of the team’s captains for the season (Sean Renfree, Connor Vernon Walt Canty, Ross Cockrell) head coach Dave Cutcliffe likes the team he has to start the season with, even with multiple injuries in key positions.
”We are at a point where the biggest challenge this team will be facing is that for a while we will have 12 scholarship players unavailable due to injury or whatever,” Cutcliffe stated.
“With that said, other than at tight end everybody on our offense has started before,” he continued.
“We have a lot experience coming back. On defense, everybody has started or played before. We still feel like this is the fastest, strongest team we have had.”
Coming off a 3-7 overall finish last season, Cutcliffe hopes his team can handle the challenge early on against a strong offensive team.
“Their ability to run (stands out); they are as fast as anybody we will play this year,” Cutcliffe said.
The Blue Devils hold a 1-0 record over the Golden Knights as they beat FIU 31-27 last October in Miami, Fla.
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