Duke vs. Wake Forest Preview

Photo by Chris Summerville

When: Saturday, November 25, 2017. 12:30 pm

Where: BB&T Field, Winston Salem, North Carolina

Television: Regional Sports Network, Fox Sports South

Line: Duke +11

Last Time: Duke 14, Wake Forest 24.  The Demon Deacons came into Wallace Wade in week 2 last year and knocked off Duke.  Wake racked up 239 rushing yards on the day.  Running back Cade Carney accounted for 108 of them and all three Wake touchdowns.  The Blue Devils jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a Daniel Jones touchdown before the offense bogged down and committed three turnovers.  Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson combined for just 11 carries, while freshman QB Daniel Jones threw 48 passes in the loss.  Duke tied the game at 14 early in the third quarter, but wouldn’t see the endzone again.  Joe Giles-Harris had a brilliant day, totaling 15 tackles, 1 interception, and a fumble recovery.  The loss snapped a four game winning streak for Duke in the series.

Game Preview

Duke got a real wake up call sometime after the disappointing loss to Army and responded with an impressive blowout against Georgia Tech last week.  Now, with the renewed prospects of bowl eligibility they will head to Winston Salem to closeout the season against a Wake team in the midst of their best season in nearly a decade.  Dave Clawson appears to have the Demon Deacons turning a corner as a program so the Blue Devils will have to play to their potential to extend their season into December.

Wake Forest is led by senior quarterback John Wolford.  Wolford is completing over 65% of his passes this year and should surpass 3000 yards by the end of Wake’s bowl game.  He currently has 23 touchdown passes to just 4 interceptions.  Wolford isn’t just a pocket passer either, he has added 567 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.  His 33 total touchdowns is good for second in the ACC and tenth in the nation.  Its a group effort for the rest of the offense as the Demon Deacons have 4 players with at least 30 receptions on the season.  So the Duke defense won’t be able to key in on any one particular player, they will have to play well across the board at every position to slow the Wake offense.  Wake averages 41 rushing attempts per game and a lot of their success through the air can be attributed to their commitment to the run game and the dual threat of Wolford.  Duke has faced two offenses in a row in Army and Georgia Tech that employ the run option offense so the Blue Devils can take some of the things they’ve focused on the last two weeks against Wake.  They will move back to the 4-2-5 defense instead of the 4-3 scheme they used against Army and Georgia Tech.  The Blue Devils will be without defensive back Jeremy McDuffie who suffered torn ligaments in his knee against Georgia Tech.  Duke could also be without Ben Humphreys for the second straight game.  The decision on whether or not he will play will be decided later this week.

Wake Forest gives up an average of 4.7 yards per rush and just slightly over 200 rushing yards per game, so Duke should attempt to attack them on the ground instead of through the air, as opposing quarterbacks are only completion just 55.2% of their passes.  After weeks of fans clamoring for more touches for Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown, the staff finally got the message against Georgia Tech as the two dynamic backs combined for 189 rushing yards on just 25 carries and another 67 receiving yards on 6 catches.  Brown scored once on a 2 yard run while Wilson caught 2 touchdown passes and even threw a TD pass on a trick play in the fourth quarter.  The production by the running backs also opened things up for Daniel Jones who had 91 rushing yards on 16 carries, highlighted by a 32 yard touchdown run.  The success on the ground also opened things up in the passing game for Jones.  While he only totaled 177 passing yards, he had his highest completion percentage since the season opener against NC Central.  It’s clear that the best offensive approach for Duke is to play through the run game.  That will also help prevent quick offensive possessions and allow less time on the field for a short handed defense.

There is a slim possibility the Blue Devils could be selected for a bowl game at 5-7 due to their high APR scores, but its best not leave these things to chance.  A win at Wake Forest would be a huge statement for a team many thought were finished weeks ago.

All stats provided by sports-reference.com

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