Fresh off Atlantic Coast Conference losses to Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Clemson, respectively, Duke, North Carolina and NC State will all venture outside the league Saturday for home tilts against nonconference foes.
And that's where the similarities end, according to former ECU and NFL coach Steve Logan.
The Triangle schools will all have different things to focus on Saturday afternoon because of how they lost their previous games and who they're facing this week.
For the Tar Heels, who welcome East Carolina to Kenan Stadium for a 12:30 p.m. game on WRAL-TV, Logan had a warning: "The Tar Heels better get ready, because it will be a royal dogfight." Logan: Tar Heels will be tested by Pirates
Logan cited ECU's offensive scheme and "just good enough" talent as two reasons UNC should take notice, but he also pointed to fans, saying that an influx of Pirate purple will make Saturday's game even more intriguing. Logan: Tar Heels will be tested by Pirates
"Where it's not blue, that stadium will be purple," Logan said. "The guys from the tobacco patch, as I call them, will come to Chapel Hill, and it's a Super Bowl opportunity for that program. To make matters worse, ECU's offense matches up extremely well against the style of defense the Tar Heels play."
ECU (2-1) struggled to put points up against Virginia Tech Sept. 14, but the Pirates scored 52 and 31 points in their first two games of the season. Quarterback Shane Carden has completed 82-of-110 attempts for 796 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Logan said ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill won't have any trouble motivating his team.
"All I had to do pregame to get ready for NC State or North Carolina, I just rolled the ball out the door and said, 'let's go,'" he said. "It was the easiest game to coach, from the motivation standpoint."
Blue Devils will learn about themselves against Troy
Although the Blue Devils have likely moved on from their 58-55 loss to Pittsburgh a week ago in preparation for their 3 p.m. matchup with Troy, there are certain parts of the game that players – and coaches – will never forget. Logan said he still remembers many "nightmare" games from his coaching career.
"This game, I know, hurt David Cutcliffe to his soul. I've got games that scarred me. A game against West Virginia in 1992 still wakes me up at night," he said.
Because of Saturday's loss to Pitt and the injury to starting quarterback Anthony Boone, Logan said he's fascinated with how the Blue Devils will handle their final eight games.
"They achieved competitiveness last year, but they are going through a thing where it becomes harder to stay there," Logan said. "It's so much harder to stay there. We'll find out a lot about the heartbeat of the Duke team this week. If they don't bounce back, things could go downhill in a hurry."
The nonconference game against the Trojans could be perfectly-timed for the Blue Devils. Troy (2-2, 0-1) lost 62-7 a week ago to Mississippi State, and the Trojans rank 105th nationally in scoring defense, giving up 34.3 points per game.
NC State welcomes Central Michigan for 'trap game'
More than a week after losing a closer-than-expected game at home to Clemson, the North Carolina State Wolfpack should be on upset alert Saturday against Central Michigan, Logan said.
"After games like that Clemson game, my teams would almost always come out flat in practice the following week," he said. "This is a trap game if I've ever seen one. If I was Dave Doeren, I'd have spent all week warning my team that we need to get back to reality and put a solid performance together."
Saturday will also be another chance for the Wolfpack offense to continue to evolve with Pete Thomas in charge. NC State gained 378 yards against Clemson, and Central Michigan (1-3) has given up 37 points per game in the first month of the season.
Logan said he believes Doeren and offensive coordinator Matt Canada have done well implementing a system not necessarily built for Thomas' skill set.
"They know what offense they want to run, but they got short-changed with the injury to Brandon Mitchell," Logan said.
The solution, as far as Logan can tell, is that the Wolfpack are running the system the same way they would with a dual-threat quarterback in an effort to "teach the rest of the offense what to expect in the future."
When Mitchell returns, or the Wolfpack move forward with other quarterbacks in subsequent seasons, offensive linemen, running backs and receivers will be better prepared, Logan said.
"When they have the QB they want, they just plug him in," he said. "They're willing to sacrifice a bit, so to speak, to show the rest of the unit how they want to play offense."