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Duke vs. Georgia Tech: What to Watch for

 

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When: Saturday October 11, 2014. 12:30 pm

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

Television: ACC Network, ESPN3

Line: Duke +3

All Time Series: Georgia Tech leads 50-30-1

Last Time: Duke 14 Georgia Tech 38.  In their first game after losing Anthony Boone to injury the Blue Devils struggled against the Yellow Jackets.  Duke was able to keep pace with Georgia Tech through the first quarter, trailing 10-7 before the wheels came off.  Brandon Connette played his first game as a starting quarterback and could not find any rhythm.  Duke also struggled to defend the triple option attack, surrendering 344 rushing yards.  Jela Duncan was one of the few bright spots on the day, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown.

 

What to Watch For:

1. Boone & Co. Look to Bounce Back:  It had been 371 days since the Duke last lost a regular season game, until Duke fell at Miami almost 2 weeks ago.  That’s a long time.  It had been even longer for Anthony Boone, who just lost his first regular season game as a starting quarterback.  To say the Blue Devils struggled on offense against Miami would be an understatement.  Their were uncharacteristic mistakes and penalties and the passing game simply could not find any rhythm.  Duke turned the ball over three times and finished the game 2-16 on third down.  The offense hasn’t looked  sharp over the past few games, but had been able to overpower the opposition in non-conference play.  That kind of performance won’t win many ACC games.  But we have seen what this offense is capable of.  They can and will play much better than they have.  While its expected to have an adjustment period under newly promoted OC Scottie Montgomery. the Duke coaching staff and current roster have a good track record on offense.  I’d look for the Blue Devils to establish the run early.  The Georgia Tech defense gives up an average of 5.5 yards per carry.  Duke would also like to try to control the time of possession, a tough task against the Yellow Jackets, who are known for the their long, tiring drives.  Early success on the ground could also help Anthony Boone ease into the game and open up play action, where Duke really has big play potential.

2. 3rd and Long:  Another key to defending the triple option attack that Duke will see Saturday is putting the opposing offense into passing situations.  The Yellow Jackets offense will thrive if they continually find themselves in 3rd and short situations.  Getting stops at or behind the line of scrimmage on first and second down will be crucial for the Duke defense.  Over the last couple seasons the Duke defense has relied on timely turnovers and a bend but don’t break approach.  That doesn’t typically work against Georgia Tech.  The Yellow Jackets take care of the ball, partly because their lack of a passing game means there are fewer opportunities for interceptions, but their backs have a low fumble rate, as well.  In 5 games they have 3 fumbles and 1 interception.  Their offensive game plan centers on the idea of continually pounding defenses with their run game, wearing them down over the course of a game, and in some cases lulling linebackers and DBs to sleep before hitting them with misdirection or a deep pass.  The Duke defense will be doing themselves a huge favor if they can put the Yellow Jackets in uncomfortable situations and limit their time of possession. Safety Jeremy Cash has made a reputation with his instinctive play and hard hitting style.  The Blue Devils will need another huge game from their junior leader to pull out the victory.

3. Keeping pace in the Coastal:  When the preseason predictions for the ACC Coastal Division were released, Georgia Tech and Virginia were two teams that almost no one was very high on.  Head coaches Paul Johnson and Mike London have received plenty of criticism recently for the lack of progress made within the programs and many expected 2014 to be the final season for each coach at their respective school, barring a miraculous turnaround.  After the first couple weeks of conference play the two teams who seemed to have the worst outlooks for 2014 are at the top of the conference.  Georgia Tech and Virginia are both currently 2-0 in the conference.  The Yellow Jackets own wins over Virginia Tech and preseason favorite Miami, while the Cavaliers have defeated conference newcomer Louisville and Pitt.  Duke dropped their first ACC game to Miami and could use a victory over Georgia Tech to stay close to the top of the division.  The 2013 Blue Devils dropped their first two conference games before rallying to win the Coastal, but David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils would prefer to not take that route again this season.  A victory over Georgia Tech this weekend and a homecoming win over Virginia next weekend would put Duke at 2-1 in the ACC with head to head tiebreakers over the current first place teams and take a lot of pressure off the team as the head into the home stretch of the season.