When: Saturday, October 21, 2017. 12:20 pm
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina
Television: ACC Network, Raycom Sports Affiliate
Line: Duke -7.5
Last Time: Duke 14, Pitt 56. Last November’s trip to Pennsylvania was a tough on for the Blue Devils. Big plays by the Panthers doomed Duke. Overall the stats for the game showed a fairly even contest, but the scoreboard showed the opposite. The Duke defense held Panther quarterback Nathan Peterman to just 11 completions and 237 passing yards. Unfortunately two of those completions went for a total of 104 yards and 2 touchdowns. In addition Pitt playmaker Quadree Henderson broke a 52 yard touchdown run and a 65 yard punt return for a touchdown. And Pitt still had James Conner who “quietly” ran for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. Throw in 2 lost fumbles for Duke and you have a recipe for a blowout. The lone highlight for the Blue Devils was a 36 yard interception return for a touchdown by Bryon Fields midway through the second quarter. TJ Rahming caught 10 passes for 116 yards on the day, but Duke only had 25 total yards on the ground. Daniel Jones was sacked 5 times in the loss.
The 2017 season started off great for the Blue Devils, going 4-0 with two nonconference wins over Power 5 teams and win over rival North Carolina. The last three games haven’t been as enjoyable. Despite there still being 5 games left in the season, Saturday looks like a must win for a Duke team hoping to right the ship and qualify for a bowl bid after missing the post season in 2016.
The Panthers started the season with a two quarterback system. USC transfer Max Browne started the season before suffering a shoulder injury so now the Panthers are just playing sophomore Ben DiNucci. DiNucci is completing just over 56% of his passes this season and has three touchdowns and three interceptions. While they have given up some big plays through the air this season the Duke defense will continue to try and get into the opposing backfield. By getting pressure on the quarterback they can force DiNucci into tough throws. The Blue Devils have some talented pass defenders in Bryon Fields, Mark Gilbert, and Jeremy McDuffie who will be looking for a chance to add to their interception totals. The Panthers have struggled on offense all year, they are averaging 23.3 points per game, good for 101st of 130 FBS teams. Their schedule hasn’t helped as they have already faced 3 top 20 teams and Georgia Tech. Their two wins this season have come against Youngstown State and Rice.
Duke faced a talented defense last weekend. Facing the Panthers should been a much more manageable task. Pitt has the worse statistical defense in the ACC. They get beat both through the air and on the ground. The offense did a better job of leaning more on the running game instead of the struggling passing attack against Florida State, but they could still do more of it. Brittain Brown is arguably the best player of the Duke offense. He had six carries against FSU. It’ll be interesting to see if Duke tries to get Daniel Jones back on track against a beatable Pitt secondary or if they continue to tweak the offense to be more run heavy to prepare for the final stretch of the season.
All stats provided by sports-reference.com