Taking a look at early season statistics

Two weeks into the 2010 season, with the Blue Devils off to a 1-1 start with a 41-27 victory at home over Elon in the opening game, and a 54-48 loss to Wake Forest on the road, it is appropriate to take a look at statistical rankings for answers to a couple of basic questions. In which areas is Duke being successful? In which areas does Duke need to show improvement?

All statistical rankings quoted throughout this article are from www.theacc.com and www.ncaa.com.

In which areas is Duke being successful?

1. Total offense: In the first two games of the season, Duke has demonstrated a potent offensive attack racking up 514.5 yards per game, which is number one in the ACC and number nine out of 120 teams in the NCAA. Duke is number two in the ACC and number six in the NCAA in passing offense (354 yards per game) and number three in the ACC and number 20 in the NCAA in scoring offense (44.5 points per game).

2. Time of possession: at 32:10 per game, Duke is number three in the ACC and number 31 in the NCAA. With an effective offense, led by talented sophomore Sean Renfree, and questionable depth along the defensive line, Duke is a team which needs to have its offense on the field more than its defense. The time of possession statistic will be a critical indicator of Duke’s ability to be fresh in the 4th Quarter of ball games, and being fresh in the 4th Quarter will set Duke up to finish games strong.

3. Third down conversions: the offense needs to keep drives alive in order to score points and keep the opponents defense on the field. Duke is number one in the ACC with a 55.2 percent success rate (16 of 29) on third down.

4. Red zone offense: taking advantage of scoring opportunities is vital to success. Duke currently sits tied with Wake Forest at number one in the ACC and tied at number one in the NCAA (with 34 teams) with 100 percent success in the red zone. Duke has had the ball in the red zone 10 times scoring seven touchdowns and three field goals.

5. First downs: Duke is number one in the ACC and number five nationally with 54 first downs. The Blue Devils have passed for 34, rushed for 15, and had five awarded by penalty.

In which areas does Duke need to show improvement?

1. Total defense: Duke is number 12 in the ACC and number 105 in the NCAA allowing 453 yards per game. Opponents are averaging 177 yards on the ground and 276 through the air on Duke’s defense. The defense must toughen up and slow down future opponent’s offenses to increase the Blue Devils opportunity to win the football game.

2. Scoring defense: When you score 48 points in a game and lose it is obvious your defense didn’t slow down the opponent’s ability to put points on the scoreboard. Duke is number 12 in the ACC and number 114 in the NCAA giving up 40.5 points per game. The number 11 ranked team in the ACC, Wake Forest, is 10 points better than Duke at 30.5 points per game. Duke must reduce the number of points they are allowing.

3. Opponent first downs: Again Duke is number 12 in the ACC having given up 48 first downs to their first two opponents. Those numbers equate to a NCAA ranking of 108.

4. Red zone defense: Duke’s first two opponents have ventured into the red zone six times and scored six times, five touchdowns and a field goal.

5. Turnover margin: Duke’s plus/minus on turnovers is zero. However, with the challenges the Blue Devils face stopping opponent’s offenses, this number needs to be significantly positive. Wake Forest capitalized on Duke turnovers by scoring 21 points, while Duke did not convert the Demon Deacon’s turnovers into points.

Moving on to individual performances, there are three Blue Devils with noteworthy national rankings.

1. Sean Renfree: Passing yards – number two in the ACC and number four in the NCAA with 354 yards per game. Passing efficiency – number one in the ACC and number 20 in the NCAA with a QB rating of 159.4.

Renfree is off to an All-America quality start to the season. He is a very talented quarterback with a bright future.

2. Conner Vernon: Receiving yards per game – number two in both the ACC and NCAA with 155 yards per game. Receptions per game – number one in the ACC and tied for number four in the NCAA with nine receptions per game.

Like Renfree, Vernon is off to an All-America quality start to the season. Watching Sean Renfree throw the ball to Conner Vernon is going to provide Duke fans with much pleasure this season.

3. Desmond Scott: All-purpose yards – number two in the ACC and number 20 in the NCAA with 166.5 yards per game. Rushing yards – number one in the ACC and number 36 in the NCAA with 99.5 yards per game. Desmond Scott’s speed and strength provide Duke with an opportunity to maintain a semblance of balance on offense. Scott’s rushing yards per game could be the single most important offensive statistic for Duke football in 2010.

Duke’s rankings in these and other statistical categories will certainly fluctuate throughout the season so be sure and check back with Blue Devil Nation as we will update this article on a weekly basis to track the Blue Devils team and individual performances during the 2010 football season.