“Everybody knows what this game means and what this game is about around here” Duke football coach Mike Elko said during Monday’s presser ahead of the Tobacco Road rivalry game against North Carolina.
This will be the toughest team Duke has faced offensively – from the passing game aspect – all season. With a plethora of weapons on the outside, a consistent running attack and a future top-5 pick in next years NFL draft, UNC has no blemishes offensively. The Tar Heels are currently on a 4-game win streak against Duke, which includes last season’s 38-35 win.
3 Keys for a Blue Devils Win
Game Manage Grayson Loftis
This will be just the second start for freshman Grayson Loftis, who will replace Riley Leonard and Henry Belin while they both nurse injuries. Mike Elko has talked about focusing on doing things that Loftis is comfortable executing in live game action. That included game managing and controlling the pace against the Demon Deacons in Duke’s 24-21 win last week.
“You’ve got to try to do the best you can to keep the game moving a little bit slower, or force him to try and make plays or challenge him to make plays that are difficult.”
After completing just 7 of 19 passes a week ago, Duke will need to put up points against a high octane offense led by Drake Maye. Look for the Blue Devils to control the ground game led by Jaquez Moore and Jordan Waters. The two running backs have accounted for 1,045 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season.
3rd down Conversions
Duke has the number one scoring defense in the ACC and 8th overall defense in the country – yielding just 15 points per game. North Carolina counters with the number two scoring offense, averaging 39 points per contest. The Blue Devils have a .376 conversion rate in all of Division 1, meaning a point of emphasis will be getting off the field on 3rd down and not allowing long sustained drives.
Stop the Run
Duke’s experienced defensive front led by Dwayne Carter, Aeneas Peebles and Tre Freeman have allowed 7 touchdowns on the ground to opposing backs in the last three contests. Known for their physicality in the trenches, during their 5-1 start the Blue Devils allowed just four touchdowns on the ground. Of course, the Tar Heels have weapons on the outside in Tez Walker and J.J. Jones, who are explosive and can create separation, but 3rd and long is more manageable for Duke to counter versus 3rd and short with Omarion Hampton leading the Tar Heels from the backfield. On the year Omarion Hampton is averaging 6.1 yards per carry, accounting over 1,067 yards on the ground.
A 12.5 point under dog, Duke will have to create turnovers to stay in this contest.
No Doubt about it, it should be an entertaining game for the Ringing of the Bell in Chapel Hill.