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Duke vs. UNC Preview

Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

When: Saturday, September 23, 2017. 3:30 PM.

Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Television: ESPNU

Line: Duke -2.5

Last Time: Duke 28, UNC 27.  Duke hosted their rivals for a Thursday night contest last November and pulled off a surprising upset against a very talented North Carolina team.  Duke came into the contest with a 3 game losing streak, while UNC sat at 7-2 with a Top 15 ranking to their name.  The Tar Heels jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before Daniel Jones and Shaun Wilson ran for scores on back to back possessions to tie the game.  The teams traded touchdowns going into the half before both defenses tightened up in the third and fourth quarter.  The Blue Devils held UNC to 2 field goals in the second half.  A short touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to Davis Koppenhaver late in the third quarter gave Duke the lead for good and an interception by Alonzo Saxton sealed the victory.  Jones finished the game with 240 passing yards and 94 rushing yards while throwing for 1 touchdown and running for 2 more.  Shaun Wilson added 107 rushing yards and a touchdown.  TJ Rahming had 100 receiving yards on 8 catches.  After a 2 year drought the Victory Bell returned to Durham.

Game Preview:

The Blue Devils will kick off conference place in an unprecedented September matchup against rival North Carolina on Saturday.  Duke is coming off a convincing, yet unsatisfying victory over Baylor last week, while the Tar Heels notched their first victory of the season with a road win over Old Dominion.

The Duke offense wasn’t particularly sharp last week against Baylor.  The had 2 turnovers and stalled on drives when they had a real chance to takeover the game.  It wasn’t all bad, though. Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown are looking like a real dynamic duo in the backfield.  Wilson is virtually unwatchable once he gets out and space and Brown has shown real power as a runner despite being just a redshirt freshman.  Both players are averaging over 100 yards from scrimmage per game and have combined for 6 touchdowns.  Daniel Jones is averaging over 50 rushing yards per game and has 3 rushing touchdowns himself.  North Carolina is giving up 4.6 yards per rush after 3 games.  They’ve had some good play from their defensive ends, but Duke has a lot of talented runners to account for.  Daniel Jones did a lot of damage on the ground last season against the Tar Heels.

The North Carolina defense seems more vulnerable through the air than on the ground.  They’re giving up 323 passing yards per game at a completion percentage of 57.8.  Duke has some real depth at the receiver position and will throw a lot of routes at UNC, both underneath and down the field.  TJ Rahming was huge in week 2 against Northwestern, but was pretty quiet against Baylor on Saturday.  He was excellent against North Carolina last year and is the player to watch on the Duke offense.

The game will probably be decided in the matchup between the Duke defense and the North Carolina offense.  The Blue Devils have gotten great play from their front seven.  Duke is only giving up 2.3 yards per rush and just over 61 rushing yards per game.  Michael Carter and Jordon Brown have been a pretty good running back duo also.  Both backs are averaging over 5 yards per carry.  Brown, Carter, and quarterback Chazz Surratt have combined for 8 rushing touchdowns so far this season.  Duke will not only have to continue to dominate on the defensive line, but use their speed to contain the runs on the outside.  Surratt seems to have established himself as the starter for UNC after sharing snaps with Brandon Harris during the first 2 games.  Surratt hasn’t been a gamebreaker, but has been very efficient so far this season. The redshirt freshman has 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions on 66 passing attempts so far in 2017 and has completed 69.7% of his passes.  What he’s lacked in playmaking he has made up for with his decision making. Duke’s high risk high reward defense has forced opposing QB’s into mistakes do far this season and should provide a real test for Surratt, but the Blue Devils secondary will have to be precise and play smart.  Larry Fedora’s offense lost a lot of talent from last year, but his system can wreak havoc on a defense regardless of who is lining up.

If Duke plays to their potential on both sides of the ball, they’ll win the Victory Bell for the fourth time in six years.

All stats provided by Sports-Reference.com