Duke in 2013: 2-0 (Defeated NCCU 45-0/Defeated Memphis 28-14)
Georgia Tech in 2013: 1-0 (Defeated Elon 70-0)
PROBABLE – C.J. France
DOUBTFUL – Jordan DeWalt Ondijo, Deondre Singleton
OUT – Anthony Boone, Jared Boyd, Thomas Sirk, Casey Blaser, Britton Grier, Eric Adams, Jack Wise, A.J. Wolf
OUT FOR SEASON – Tanner Stone
GEORGIA TECH INJURIES – Unavailable
HOW DUKE CAN WIN
Duke will look to improve to 3-0 on the season by containing the Georgia Tech running game to force young quarterback Vad Lee, operating behind a suspect offensive line, to use his arm to try to win the game. Duke’s secondary has received an infusion of speed and athleticism via freshmen to complement talented All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell. That speed will assist the Blue Devils in defending the deep pass. Additionally, redshirt sophomore safety Jeremy Cash and redshirt senior cornerback Garrett Patterson have been solid additions to the starting line-up. Patterson was involved in a couple of big pass break ups in the win at Memphis. Duke’s secondary is young, but extremely talented so it will be important for them to not give up big plays especially on 3rd down and 4th down. The defense must finish sets and get off the field.
But it all starts with the front six and containing the running game. Duke’s defensive linemen and linebackers are healthy in 2013 after suffering innumerous injuries last season. Linebacker Kelby Brown, nose guard Jamal Bruce, defensive end Justin Foxx and defensive end Kenny Anunike are all current front six starters who missed all or significant parts of the 2012 season due to injury. Defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento is the lone front six starter who played in all 13 games last season. For Duke to be victorious on Saturday afternoon, the front six must contain the running game to place the Georgia Tech offense into must pass situations. Once those obvious passing situations exist, pressuring the quarterback will be vital.
On offense, quarterback Brandon Connette will be starting in place of injured Anthony Boone; however, Coach David Cutcliffe has stated Duke will still run the same offensive package with slight adjustments to account for Connette’s strengths so look for Duke to mix up the play calling between run and pass to maintain the balance achieved during the first two games. The Blue Devils will attempt to pound away at the Yellow Jackets defense with their quartet of running backs, while simultaneously ensuring playmaker Jamison Crowder has ample opportunity to impact the game. The key will be for Connette to focus upon orchestrating the offense rather than trying to win the game by himself.
HOW DUKE CAN LOSE
When one ponders the question, “How can Duke lose?” three factors immediately surface: first, giving Georgia Tech extra opportunities on offense; second, allowing Georgia Tech to sustain drives by failing to execute on 3rd and 4th down; third, poor offensive execution resulting in three and outs.
Extra possessions for Georgia Tech could be fatal so turning the ball over three times like in the Memphis game would be disastrous. The same can be said about penalties. Sloppy play resulting in extra opportunities for the Yellow Jackets is a situation the Blue Devils cannot afford.
Failing to achieve defensive success on 3rd and 4th down is a big concern for Duke. In last season’s 42-24 victory, Georgia Tech successfully converted on 13 of 20 3rd downs and four of four 4th downs. Those conversions allowed Georgia Tech to sustain drives that wore out Duke’s defense resulting in Georgia Tech outscoring Duke 14-0 in the 4th quarter. The Blue Devils must stop the Yellow Jackets so the defense can get off the field, remain fresh and be the stronger unit in the critical 4th quarter.
Equally important will be achieving success on offense. Three and outs by the Blue Devils offense will force their defense back onto the field quickly so a failure to execute on offense and sustain drives is another factor which could result in a Duke loss.
WHY DUKE WILL WIN
Duke is a healthy and much improved defensive team well suited to handle the Georgia Tech offense. The Blue Devils will not shutdown the Yellow Jackets, but they will contain them. Georgia Tech’s defense is suspect so Duke will be able to put together multi-play, point producing drives which will leave the Georgia Tech defenders exhausted allowing Duke to be the fresher team during the 4th quarter.
Moreover, Duke will utilize their superior kicking game with punter Will Monday and kicker Ross Martin to win the field position battle. With Georgia Tech playing on a long field all afternoon, Duke will squeak out a win by making one more field goal than Georgia Tech.
Duke 27, Georgia Tech 24