Pittsburgh at Duke: Game Preview

Duke DE Kenny Anunike will look to pressure Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage often on Saturday. BDN Photo

Duke DE Kenny Anunike will look to pressure Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage often on Saturday. BDN Photo

Pittsburgh at Duke
12:30 PM ET
Saturday, September 21
Wallace Wade Stadium
Durham, NC
TV: ACC Network
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2013: 2-1 (Lost to Georgia Tech, 38-14)
Pittsburgh in 2013: 1-1 (Defeated New Mexico 49-27)

DUKE INJURIES

PROBABLE – RB Eric Adams (upper body), DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (leg), S Deondre Singleton (lower body)
QUESTIONABLE – S Corbin McCarthy (lower body)
OUT – OT Casey Blaser (hand), QB Anthony Boone (upper body), CB Jared Boyd (leg), QB Thomas Sirk (leg), WR Jack Wise (upper body), DT A.J. Wolf (leg)
OUT FOR SEASON – OT Tanner Stone (leg)

PITTSBURGH INJURIES – Unavailable

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

The Duke secondary will receive its first true test of the 2013 season as it matches up with Pittsburgh’s star WRs Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Pitt is coming off a big win over New Mexico, where they moved the ball easily through the air. Ross Cockrell and the Blue Devil defensive backs will have to contain the Panther passing game if Duke is to come away with their first ACC win of the season. To help out the secondary, the Blue Devil front 6 must get after redshirt-senior transfer QB Tom Savage and make him uncomfortable all afternoon. In their opening loss to Florida State, Savage was pressured into 2 interceptions and sacked 3 times. Kenny Anunike and company must have a big day up front for the Blue Devils.

Brandon Connette and the Duke offense must take a big step forward from a week ago, and prove early and often that they can move the ball through the air. The book on Duke’s offense right now is to stack the box and force Connette to beat you through the air. Until he proves he can do that, especially on key 3rd down situations, the Blue Devils will struggle to sustain drives. The offensive line must contain Pitt DT Aaron Donald, who is coming off a big game against New Mexico. He is a force up front, who has the ability to single-handedly stuff Duke’s read-option. Duke’s 2 scoring drives against Georgia Tech featured a heavy dose of sophomore RB Jela Duncan, and getting the ball in his, and WR Jamison Crowder’s hands, has to be key to Duke’s offense.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

The answer to this is not complicated. If both teams repeat their week 3 efforts, the Blue Devils will lose. Pittsburgh dominated New Mexico last week with a strong effort on both sides of the ball. They moved the ball efficiently both through the air and on the ground, scoring on 6 of their first 8 possessions in the game. The defense stifled New Mexico, who finished with just 59 yards in the first half. Meanwhile, Duke struggled on 3rd down both offensively and defensively against Georgia Tech, and lost the field position battle in special teams.

In all likelihood, Pittsburgh will put up some points on the Blue Devils, as their speedy receivers will find holes in the inexperienced Duke secondary. If that’s the case, the Blue Devils will have to play better on 3rd down, where they finished just 3 of 14 offensively last week. The Blue Devils cannot afford to lose on 3rd down again this week. If Kurt Roper does decide to open things up through the air, Connette must improve his accuracy. For an offense that is struggling to find its new identity, turnovers will kill momentum. A balanced Pittsburgh attack and a Duke offense that is unable to sustain drives would make for a long day for the Blue Devil faithful.

WHY PITTSBURGH WILL WIN

Coming off a big win, the Panthers have the momentum, while the flu-ridden Blue Devils are struggling to find their mojo. The Blue Devil defense will put together another laudable effort, keeping this game close early on, but the Blue Devils will continue to struggle offensively.  In the second half, the Panthers will be the fresher team and will be able to control the line of scrimmage. Forced to play catch-up, Connette will be forced into tough situations and tough throws. A costly turnover or two may put the Blue Devils behind for good. For the Panthers, Savage will find both Street and Boyd for key explosive plays that will keep the game out of reach.

Pittsburgh 34, Duke 21

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