Troy at Duke Game Preview

All-ACC CB Ross Cockrell will have his hands full with Troy's Eric Thomas Saturday. BDN Photo

All-ACC CB Ross Cockrell will have his hands full with Troy’s Eric Thomas Saturday. BDN Photo

Troy at Duke
3:00 PM ET
Saturday, September 28
Wallace Wade Stadium
Durham, NC
TV: ESPN3, Time Warner Cable 518 in Carolinas market
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2013: 2-2 (Lost to Pittsburgh, 58-55)
Troy in 2013: 2-2 (Lost to Miss St, 62-7)

DUKE INJURIES

PROBABLE – OT Casey Blaser (hand), LB Kelby Brown (lower body), DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (leg), S Corbin McCarthy (lower body), LB Deion Williams (upper body), WR Jack Wise (upper body)
OUT – QB Anthony Boone (upper body), CB Jared Boyd (leg), DE Michael Mann (upper body), S Dwayne Norman (leg), QB Thomas Sirk (leg), DT A.J. Wolf (leg)
OUT FOR SEASON – OT Tanner Stone (leg)

TROY INJURIES – Unavailable

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

The Blue Devils have to improve upon their mistakes from the past two weeks if they hope to get back on the winning side. Despite all of the ups and downs of the Pittsburgh shootout, Duke had a chance to win the game had they not committed 4 turnovers. On Saturday against a turnover-prone Trojan team, the Blue Devils must take care of the football and win the turnover battle. An extra possession or two could give Duke the breathing room it needs.

Duke must control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball on Saturday. To alleviate pressure on Brandon Connette’s arm, Duke must buy him time in the passing game and open lanes for Jela Duncan and company on the ground. In a blowout win against the Trojans a week ago, Mississippi State was able to control the line of scrimmage, outgaining Troy 235 to 47 on the ground. Troy returns just one starter from a year ago on their offensive line, and the experienced Blue Devil defensive front must find ways to pressure Corey Robinson. In the secondary, Duke had its share of troubles against Pittsburgh, but the matchup to watch on Saturday will be CB Ross Cockrell lining up against star WR Eric Thomas.

Perhaps most important for the Blue Devils will be to dictate the way this game is played. Duke is a more talented team and must impose its will on the Trojans. The Blue Devils have had to play from behind in each of their last two games, a formula that has not resulted in success. An early lead will go a long way in improving the confidence and effectiveness of both the offense and defense. Special teams has been an area of some inconsistency for Duke this year. They have to do a better job of winning the field position battle; the parts are all in place with All-American specialists Will Monday and Ross Martin, along with explosive returners in Jamison Crowder and Johnell Barnes. Saturday presents an opportunity for all three phases to get back on track for the Blue Devils.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

Replicate the efforts of the past two weeks and winning becomes difficult for the Blue Devils, regardless of the opponent. The margin for error remains slim for this team, especially with Connette under center and an inexperienced secondary. Turnovers will kill the Blue Devils’ momentum and confidence, while forcing the defense into tough situations. The Trojans, who have seen their share of turnover troubles, will be looking to exploit the Blue Devils’ weaknesses, so ball security remains paramount.

Defensively, Duke has allowed 10 passing TDs over the past 2 games. WR Eric Thomas is second in the country in receiving TDs, so keeping him out of the end zone will be a tough task Saturday. Troy will have success moving the ball against Duke, but the Blue Devils will have to avoid the costly explosive plays that have plagued them recently. Troy has 2 experienced and dynamic quarterbacks in Corey Robinson and Deon Anthony; if Duke’s front 6 fails to pressure them, it will be another long day for the Blue Devil secondary, leaving Duke searching for answers as they head into their first bye week.

WHY DUKE WILL WIN

Few scenarios allow for the Blue Devils to reach bowl eligibility without a win against Troy on Saturday, making this a must-win game for the Blue Devils as they head into their bye week. Help may be on the horizon, as Anthony Boone and Thomas Sirk continue to heal ahead of schedule, but Connette and the Devils must take care of business first. Mississippi State provided a blueprint for beating Troy last week, and the Blue Devils have the pieces to try and replicate that effort. Much like they did during their 2-0 start, Duke will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Brandon Connette will show improvement for the 3rd straight week and find open Blue Devil receivers in a suspect Troy secondary. The Duke defense will yield to Robinson and the Trojans, but will not break, coming up with the key stops and takeaways needed to win comfortably.

Duke 38, Troy 21