The 2-0, 21st – ranked Duke Blue Devils welcome the Northwestern Wildcats into Wallace Wade stadium Saturday evening. Duke enters the contest winning four straight against the Big 10 representatives. Still riding high after an impressive season opening wins versus 9th-ranked Clemson and Lafayette, the Blue Devils now turn their focus to the Wildcats during a three-game home stand. Here’s what to look for from Duke week three.
Can Duke withstand playing down to its competition?
Staying focused and putting teams away early separates the serious contenders from the pretenders. Yes Duke is heavily favored by three touchdowns on Saturday, but just this past week they entered halftime with a slim 21-7 lead over Lafayette – before cruising to a 42-7 win. The blowout win was the 2nd straight game where Duke completed a second half shutout of its opponent in just a five day span. That’s impressive, to say the least. Northwestern allows a little over 100 yards per game on the ground (113 yards), which is the bread and butter of the Blue Devils’ offense. Establishing a polished ground attack (230 yards per game rushing) and controlling the time of possession will be key.
Battle in the trenches
The Wildcats have allowed seven sacks, two fumbles and two interceptions in just two games to begin the season. Northwestern is led by quarterback Ben Bryant who is completing just 58.5 percent of his pass attempts – averaging nearly six yards per pass. On the ground, if the 220-pound physical back – Cam Porter – can establish a ground attack to keep Duke honest upfront, the Wildcats could find success maintaining time of possession. So far this season Northwestern is averaging just 25 minutes per game in time of possession. The Blue Devils’ offensive line has yet to give up a single sack to opposing defenses and dual-threat quarterback Riley Leonard has not thrown an interception.
When Duke scores first they’re 9-0 under Coach Mike Elko, which includes 2-0 this season (Clemson, Lafayette). Will the trend continue tomorrow versus Northwestern?
- Saturday’s game will mark the 23rd on the gridiron between the two schools with the series currently in Duke’s favor at 12-10. The Blue Devils are trying to make it five straight over their Big Ten foe, having won in 2017, 2018, 2021, and most recently last season.
- In non-conference regular season games held at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke is 18-2 (.900) in its last 10 seasons. The Blue Devils’ last out-of-conference regular season loss at home came against No. 15 Notre Dame in 2019. Prior to that the last time Duke dropped a non-conference game at home was in 2015 in a contest with No. 23 Northwestern. Duke is undefeated (6-0) at home over the last two seasons against out-of-conference foes.
- Throughout Duke’s 15 games under head coach Mike Elko, it has scored 94 points off of 31 opponent turnovers. Duke scored an impressive 31 points off of eight Miami turnovers on Oct. 22, 2022.
- Duke ranks second in the ACC and eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 7.0 points per contest. The Blue Devils have relinquished just two touchdowns on the year and have yet to give up points in the second half. Additionally, the Blue Devils rank fourth in the ACC and 52nd nationally in total defense, allowing just 317.5 yards per game.
How to Watch
On-Air Time: 3:30 p.m.
Announcers: Play-by-Play Chris Cotter; Analyst Mark Herzlich; Sideline Sherree Burruss
Blue Devil Sports Network from LEARFIELD: David Shumate (play-by-play); Dave Harding (color analyst); John Roth (sideline reporter); Jeff Hamlin (studio updates)