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X-Factor: Double Michael Carter's a potential moment for the ages

Pictured is Duke's Michael Carter II. Look for North Carolina's Michael Carter Jr., No. 8, when the rivals face off Saturday.
Pictured is Duke's Michael Carter II. Look for North Carolina's Michael Carter Jr., No. 8, when the rivals face off Saturday.

Duke suffered an embarrassing loss to Virginia last week, but all will be forgotten come Saturday. The Blue Devils will take on their forever foe North Carolina, this time in Durham, in search of redemption. To find true difference-makers, the Blue Zone looks at a pair of players sure to both make an impact and annoy the commentators:

Duke: Safety Michael Carter II

Michael Carter II might not have recorded an interception yet this season, but he is still making his presence felt. His 33 tackles rank fifth among the Blue Devil defense, which is notable for a secondary player. He might even get the chance to take on his Chapel Hill counterpart, described below. Wouldn’t that be a mouthful for the announcers?

Carter’s most important role Saturday, though, will be as leader of Duke’s “Cheetah U” secondary. North Carolina runs an extremely pass-heavy offense, and Carter must carry the responsibility for heading it off. If Carter—an academic junior—can interrupt Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell’s flow, North Carolina might as well head home early.

North Carolina: Running back Michael Carter Jr.

Saturday’s second Michael Carter—this one a "Jr." by name as well as by grade—is the Tar Heels’ second-leading rusher. He does get the most action in the North Carolina backfield, though, with just under 100 carries through seven games, averaging 4.9 per attempt. In a six-overtime loss against Virginia Tech last week—the longest game in ACC history—Carter totaled 91 yards on 13 carries but blew a game-winning opportunity at the end of the fifth overtime, getting stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on a 2-point conversion attempt.

In a contest headlined by two rivals and ACC Coastal position, a potential meeting of the two juniors—one a “II” and the other a “Jr.”—could be the absolute last reason to watch this year’s incarnation of the Tobacco Road rivalry on the gridiron. But if there are readers anything like me, this linguistic collision could—at times—very well end up occupying most, if not all of your attention.

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