The annual Duke and North Carolina football game is always must-see television in the Tar Heel State. This year, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will make history right as they set foot on the field.
For the first time ever in their rivalry, Duke and North Carolina will face each other before October. Usually, the two schools meet in November, but this year, they will square off on Sept. 23.
ACC senior associate commissioner of football operations Michael Strickland, who creates the conference’s football schedule, told The News & Observer that an earlier meeting in this rivalry will not become a new trend. This year, several scheduling quirks forced Duke and North Carolina to meet the fourth week of the season.
When making the schedule, Strickland was looking for an opponent for Duke to open its conference slate against in Week 4, and half of the Blue Devils’ 2017 conference opponents – Wake Forest, Miami, Virginia and Virginia tech – already had non-conference games scheduled for that week. That left Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Pittsburgh as the only options for Duke to play.
The Blue Devils, though, added their own request for the week. They begin the 2017 season with three home games, so to avoid a bunch of road contests at the end of the season, the Blue Devils asked to play away in Week 4.
Since Duke visited Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh last year, the Blue Devils host those two teams this year. They are also supposed to face Florida State at home since its other cross-divisional matchup with Wake Forest is on the road.
That left North Carolina as the only possible road ACC matchup Duke could have in Week 4.
Fortunately for Blue Devils fans, the ACC didn’t break all of Duke’s football traditions. They will still face their other in-state rival, Wake Forest, in Week 13 after Thanksgiving.