Panthers, Blue Devils go for 1st Atlantic Coast Conference win - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

ACC football: Coastal foes Duke, Pitt face off

Tyler Boyd (23) celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown pass in the Panthers' 49-27 win over New Mexico. (Source: ACC Network) Tyler Boyd (23) celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown pass in the Panthers' 49-27 win over New Mexico. (Source: ACC Network)
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(RNN) – Saturday's Pitt Panthers-Duke Blue Devils contest features a head-to-head between one of the ACC's best young offensive players and one of its longtime defensive standouts.

Duke senior cornerback Ross Cockrell has been an anchor on the defense for what seems like an eternity. The 6'0, 190-pounder earned an All-American honorable mention and was a consensus All-ACC first teamer a season ago.

His combination of size, speed and soft hands makes him a potential gamechanger anytime the ball gets thrown in his direction. The four-year starter grabbed his first interception of the season in the 38-14 loss vs. Georgia Tech last week after leading the conference with five in 2012.

Much of Cockrell's day could be spent lining up opposite freshman sensation Tyler Boyd. The wideout has already become a key figure in the Panther offense two games into his career; he scored on a 34-yard pass and a 33-yard run (173 total yards) in the 49-27 win over New Mexico.

ACC Network: Pitt Panthers at Duke Blue Devils, 12:30 ET Saturday (check TV listings)

Boyd's performance earned him ACC Receiver of the Week and 247Sports National True Freshman of the Week honors. The 6'2, 185-pounder displayed his versatility in high school as a wide receiver, quarterback, running back and punt returner, and head coach Paul Chryst looks set on getting the ball in his hands as much as possible.

If Cockrell can shut the youngster down – and force a turnover or two – the Blue Devils may get their first conference win of the year. If Boyd gets the best of his elder, the Panthers can claim their first-ever ACC road game.

Pitt's defensive attack starts with the front line. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald found his way to the quarterback twice last time out, once despite only a three-man rush.

Those gave the senior more than 40 tackles for loss in his time as a Panther. And the Blue Devils will need to help out whoever has the misfortune of blocking him to make sure that number doesn't get any higher.

Duke's offense already faced the loss of its starting quarterback, Anthony Boone. He suffered a broken collarbone in the Memphis game Sept. 8 and will be out for several weeks, with Brandon Connette filling in.

Connette has shown he can control the turnovers, with only one interception compared to four TDs. However, his team will require more out of him than it got against Georgia Tech (15 of 28, 122 yards) to keep up with Pitt.

Other ACC action: Clemson at NC State, 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday

The Clemson Tigers (2-0) are among the favorites in the ACC and nationally this season. They made their elite status known early, beating Georgia in a Week 1 game of top-10 teams. Quarterback and Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd leads an exciting offense that has averaged 40-plus points since the beginning of last season.

NC State (2-0) got scorched by the Tigers a year ago, when Boyd set the ACC record with eight touchdowns in one game. The Wolfpack have a pair of effective running backs in Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy; they will need to run the ball well to keep the other offense off the field for long stretches.

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