The Blue Devils look to snap another streak on Saturday in Winston-Salem - BDN Photo

BDN Preview: Can Duke snap the streak at Wake Forest?

Jela Duncan will look to break another big run for the Blue Devil offense on Sunday against in-state rival Wake Forest. – BDN Photo

Duke at Wake Forest
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, September 29
Winston-Salem, NC

TV: ACC Network (TV/Internet/Mobile)
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke: 3-1, beat Memphis 38-14
Wake Forest: 3-1, beat Army 49-31

Last year: Wake Forest defeated Duke, 24-23

DUKE INJURIES

PROBABLE: CB Lee Butler (leg), OG Lucas Patrick (ankle)

QUESTIONABLE: QB/TE/FB/S Brandon Connette (leg), TE Erich Schneider (lower body)

OUT: CB Jared Boyd (knee), LB Kelby Brown (knee), DT Jamal Bruce (foot), TE Braxton Deaver (knee), DE Justin Foxx (hand), S Chris Tavarez (knee)

OUT FOR SEASON: TE Jack Farrell (leg), WR Blair Holliday, DE Allen Jackson (shoulder), S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder), S Taylor Sowell (leg)

WAKE FOREST INJURIES

PROBABLE: NG Nikita Whitlock (ankle)

OUT: WR Matt Jones (collarbone)

OUT FOR SEASON: TE Neil Basford (ankle)

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

Wake Forest allows over 200 yards rushing per game, a statistic that is probably misleading since they most recently played two very good running teams in Florida State and Army. Still, without a healthy Nikita Whitlock, the Demon Deacons are vulnerable, and to me, it has to start on the ground for Duke. Jela Duncan and Josh Snead have the ability to break open a run or two, which gives more working space for Duke’s outstanding receiving corps of Conner Vernon, Jamison Crowder, and Desmond Scott. Note that Vernon is just 6 catches from the ACC all-time mark, an amazing feat for one of the best to ever don the blue and white. For Vernon, Scott, and QB Sean Renfree, this is likely their final chance to beat the Demon Deacons, and all three will have to play a big part in a Blue Devil victory. Defensively, the key matchup to watch will be Duke’s cornerbacks against ACC-leading WR Michael Campanaro. Cockrell and Butler will have to keep him under wraps to keep Duke in the game, as Wake QB Tanner Price is not likely to make many mistakes. Josh Harris has given Duke fits on the ground in the past, but Wake has a suspect offensive line, so Duke has to continue to get into the backfield as they did against NCCU and Memphis. In their three big wins this year, special teams has made game-changing plays, whether it’s a blocked FG, an intercepted 2-point conversion, or a return TD. Against a tough ACC opponent on the road, a big play on special teams could be the momentum swing the Blue Devils will inevitably need.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

I looked for a highlight montage of Duke’s last 12 games against Wake Forest, but I couldn’t find it. Seriously, the Blue Devils have written the book on how to lose close games to the Demon Deacons over the past 12 seasons. For a recap, check out Laura Keeley’s piece for the N&O. In a nutshell, though, Duke has to take better care of the football than they have this season. They will be unlikely to lose the turnover battle and win the game against a team like Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons do not turn the ball over often, meaning that the Blue Devil defense will have to create stops and force mistakes to get the ball back for their offense. With Brandon Connette listed as questionable, someone may have to step up for the Blue Devils in the red zone, or else fans may get an unwanted deja vu back to the 2011 season. Ross Martin, who has been solid up to this point, will face his first serious ACC game pressure in this one, and he will have to be up to the challenge to keep the game from slipping away.

The Blue Devils look to snap another streak on Saturday in Winston-Salem – BDN Photo

WHY DUKE WILL WIN

Incredibly, this is the first time since 1971 that both teams have come into this contest at 3-1. The Blue Devils’ offense ranks in the top 25 in the country in scoring, and in the top 15 in passing. They’re going up against a unit that ranks 106th out of 120 teams in total defense. Duke has too many playmakers on offense for a Demon Deacon defense that is struggling to find its identity. The Blue Devil defense will make just enough plays to keep the game close, but don’t expect a lot of turnovers from a disciplined Wake Forest offense. Yes, this game will go back and forth. Sure, there will be ups and downs. As most of these matchups have gone over the past decade, it will be a roller coaster ride of emotion for Duke and Wake Forest fans, but this year, finally, the Blue Devils will finish on top. Duke 45, Wake Forest 37