NC Central at Duke
Saturday, August 31
Wallace Wade Stadium
Durham, North Carolina
2012 NCCU: 6-5
2012 Duke: 6-7, lost to Cincinnati in Belk Bowl
Out: OT Casey Blaser (hand), CB Jared Boyd (leg), DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (leg), LB C.J. France (lower body), DE Britton Grier (upper body), QB Thomas Sirk (leg), WR Jack Wise (upper body)
Out for season: OT Tanner Stone (leg)
HOW DUKE CAN WIN
The Blue Devils look to get their season started with a win on Saturday as they take on NCCU in the Bull City Gridiron Classic. Duke boasts the bigger and more talented team, but still must play sound fundamental football to defeat the cross-town Eagles in their season opener. The Blue Devils will set out to dictate this game with their offense against a NCCU defense that returns just 3 starters from a year ago. Behind a veteran offensive line, the Blue Devils will look to establish the run early, splitting touches amongst their veteran running backs Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead, and Jela Duncan. A strong running game will open up opportunities for QB Anthony Boone to involve his young receivers alongside veterans Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney, and Brandon Braxton. Defensively, the Blue Devils will rotate through a number of players both up front and in the secondary. Expect to see LB Kelby Brown quickly establish himself as the leader of this unit, and a big factor in stopping the run. In last year’s matchup, a Lee Butler punt return TD opened up the game, and special teams could again prove to put this game away for the Blue Devils.
HOW DUKE CAN LOSE
The last time a FCS opponent entered Wallace Wade Stadium after losing their head coach in the preseason, the Richmond Spiders left with a win. Duke is a much improved football team, but the margin for error is still slim, and the Blue Devils cannot afford to overlook any opponent. Though undersized, NCCU features a number of athletic playmakers, and the Eagles were able to move the ball successfully at Duke a year ago behind QB Jordan Reid and WR Marvin Poole. If the Blue Devils’ pass rush fails to get to Reid, the Eagles could find similar success this year against a young Duke secondary. Though impressive in his first career start a year ago, QB Anthony Boone is far from a proven veteran and will have to avoid costly turnovers. With a new QB and new center, costly penalties could stall the offense. The Blue Devils will need Boone to be sharp as they debut their new read-option offense. Just as a special teams play opened things up for Duke a year ago, a missed assignment could easily swing momentum in the favor of the Eagles. As a nearly 5 touchdown underdog with an interim head coach, the Eagles have nothing to lose and will be playing for pride.
WHY DUKE WILL WIN
Despite a few first-game jitters, the Blue Devils will pull off a comfortable victory on Saturday. NCCU will connect on a few big plays, but the Duke defense will control the line of scrimmage and frustrate Reid and the Eagles. Behind a balanced offensive attack, the Blue Devils will score early and often, allowing their young wide receivers and defensive backs the opportunity to earn valuable snaps late in the game. Duke starts the season 1-0 with a comfortable, but not entirely dominant win. Duke 42, NCCU 14