When: Saturday, October 28, 2016. 12:00 PM.
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Television: Fox Sports South
Line: Duke +7.5
Last Time: Duke 34, No. 20 Georgia Tech 20. The Blue Devils won a rain soaked matchup against the Yellow Jackets on the back of their defense last year in Durham. Duke got off to a good start offensively, jumping out to a 19-3 lead by the end of the first quarter. The combination of rain and the general inconsistent offensive play that plagued Duke for most of the 2015 season brought the game close in the second half before a Shaq Powell 30 yard touchdown run, his third TD of the day, late in the fourth quarter secured the Duke victory. DeVon Edwards had a kickoff return for a touchdown in the game, as well. It was the defense that stole show, holding the triple option attack to under 3 yards per rush on 60 carries. Jeremy Cash had one of his best games as a Blue Devil finishing with 12 total tackles, 3 for a loss, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. The 20 points was the lowest scoring game for Georgia Tech in the 2015 season before their season finale against rival Georgia.
What to Watch For:
Triple Option Winning Streak. Duke will head to Atlanta winners of the last 2 matchups against Georgia Tech. They’ve notched wins over Army twice and Navy once in the same stretch dating back to 2013, bringing their total winning streak against triple option teams to 5 games. The Blue Devils defeated an improved Army team just 3 weeks ago so they have devoted plenty of time to game planning against the triple option. It seems as if the staff has built recent Duke teams with the triple option in mind, recruiting hard hitting, athletic safeties that are capable of fighting through blockers at the line of scrimmage. Duke has had a week to rest up and prepare for Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets just had their bye week as well. You can bet that they are thinking about the losing streak to Duke and how to better attack the Duke defense. Duke may be even more prepared this year with the way the defensive line is playing. With the guys up front getting in to the opposing backfield with regularity Georgia Tech could be forced to exclusively try and run to the outside which plays right into Duke’s strategy of getting their defensive backs stringing out plays and making tackles in space.
Opportunities for Receivers. Anthony Nash suffered a broken clavicle against Louisville. In all likelihood his Duke career is over. Depending on the severity it is possible he could return late in the year, but at this point that doesn’t seem likely. Nash was the senior leader for a talented, but young group of receivers. To that point he was the team leader in receiving yards. His injury comes at a pivotal time for Duke. As we head to November Duke can still reach bowl eligibility, but they have to get some consistency on offense. TJ Rahming has proven reliable, but more on underneath routes. Nash had been the primary downfield threat for Duke, if they had one. Johnathan Lloyd will still be the primary slot receiver, but the other outside spot is up for grabs. We could see a revolving door at the spot with Chris Taylor, Aaron Young, Quay Chambers, and maybe even a Keyston Fuller appearance. Taylor seems to be the guy to get the first look based on Cutcliffe’s comments in this week’s press conference. The Yellow Jackets have been very beatable through the air so far this season so this may prove to be a good opportunity for the reserve receivers to find a place in the starting lineup. Daniel Jones has been good when not turning the ball over so this game should also give him the opportunity to find a groove and establish some consistency.
Bye Week Evaluation. Duke went into their bye week after nearly getting an upset victory at Louisville. That close defeat against one of the best teams in the country brought some optimism to a season that has been largely frustrating. By hanging with the juggernaut that is the Cardinals hopefully the Blue Devils have proven to themselves that they are capable of winning every remaining game on the schedule. It won’t be easy and shouldn’t even be considered probable, but there are no unbeatable teams in the Coastal Division. At 3-4 Duke has ample opportunity to make some noise in the division, even if they aren’t in the position to win the Coastal. Perhaps more importantly Duke can still secure a fifth consecutive bowl appearance. It starts this weekend in Atlanta. This almost feels like a must win game for Duke, given that North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Miami and Pitt are the remaining opponents. Especially when you consider how Duke matches up against each of these teams. Hopefully the Blue Devils will take the opportunity to make this a successful season.