With the Duke Blue Devils taking on the 12th ranked Clemson Tigers this Saturday, there is one big question heading into the game: does Cutcliffe and his new-and-improved Blue Devils even stand a chance?
Just a week ago, that answer would’ve been a resounding, “YES”, but last week’s blowout loss to Florida State has brought Duke fans back to Earth. I don’t need to revisit that game, as you know what happened: Duke, a team with a few talented players and some confidence, took on the Florida State Seminoles, a team infinitely more talented at just about every position. The result: Duke was badly overmatched the entire game and went home, where they curled up in the fetal position and began muttering something about “making the bad man stop”.
So, after being on the wrong end of a brutal blowout, do the Devils have a chance in Hell (ha-ha!) of upsetting Clemson at home?
Well, first, lets address the things that Duke has going right for them heading into the game. First of all, we all have come to learn that anyone is capable of beating anyone on any given night in college football. Florida State lost to NC State! NC State! The team that have already lost to the Tar Heels, Miami, and Tennessee and nearly lost to a Maryland team that has so many injured quarterbacks that they’ve converted a linebacker to be their starting ball-slinger. Upsets happen all the time now, so Duke has that going for them.
Also, starting QB Sean Renfree has been upgraded to Probable for the game, giving them back their gutsy leader. While I think the world of Anthony Boone, the Blue Devils are a much more consistent team when Renfree is under center.
Now, the bad news:
Clemson’s offense is incredibly dangerous, posting 37+ points in seven straight games, which puts them at 10th in the nation in Points Scored and 19th in total offense. QB Tajh Boyd is coming off of a 428-yard, 5-touchdown performance against the Demon Deacons, who have actually fielded a better pass-defense this season than the Blue Devils, although that really isn’t saying much except that Jamarcus Russell could probably step into a uniform and, as out of shape and out of practice as I’m sure he is, could toss a couple hundred yards on Duke’s defense.
In their only two games against ranked teams this season, Duke has been outscored 98-20. Something about seeing a number next to a team’s name intimidates this team. If they’re going to beat Clemson, they’re going to have to find a way around their arithmophobia.
In a season where they’ve played Memphis (17ppg), Wake Forest (20ppg), Virginia (21ppg), and a mid-major, Duke has managed to allow 30ppg. When they play above-average offenses, the defense isn’t able to keep up, plain and simple.
Duke has a lot going against them in this game. If they’re going to stand a chance, they’re going to need a marvelous performance from Sean Renfree and the running game, along with the slightest pulse from the defense. If they can manage to keep Clemson in the low 30s, Duke will stand a chance, as Clemson’s defense hasn’t been anything more than average this season. I don’t, however, like their chances.
Prediction: Duke 31, Clemson 52