2013 Football Schedule Preview: Part 1


Nov 17, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Juwan Thompson (23) celebrates a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Georgia Tech defeated Duke 42-24. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in years, Duke avoids a preseason top 25 team on its slate.  It is the most favorable schedule Duke has had in quite some time and looks ripe to convert to the Blue Devils second straight bowl trip.  I teamed up with Matt Osborne, Editor of SouthernPigskin.com to break down each game to see where the advantages lie and what Duke needs to do to win each game.

We start with Part 1 which features the NC Central, Memphis, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh games where Duke has the ability to finish anywhere from 1-3 to 4-0.

NC Central

Duke Advantage:

Matt: Rather than picking a particular facet of the game, the easiest, and most obvious, advantage for the Blue Devils is superior athleticism. The coaching staff’s recent improved recruiting efforts should be on full display against the FCS Eagles.

Chris: I agree, the sheer size advantage would be enough to win this game but the extra skill and talent Cutcliffe has brought in will have the chance to fully shine in this game.

NC Central Advantage:

Matt: Duke will have the advantage at every position on the field, leaving the lack of expectations as NC Central’s lone advantage. Expect the Eagles to play loose and with nothing to lose.

Chris: If anything, Central may have a competitive advantage if the game somehow stays close into the fourth quarter. Duke could play tight and choke away an easy victory.

Duke will win if…:

Matt: Barring some sort of unforeseen catastrophe, Duke should have no problems with the Eagles. The two teams have met twice in recent years, and the Blue Devils cruised to easy wins in both prior contests.

Chris: If they show up. They have a clear advantage in all facets of the game and have an urgency to win this game and start collecting wins.

Confidence Rating: 10

at Memphis

Duke Advantage:

Matt: Memphis only averaged 3.72 yards per carry in 2012, and the Tigers will likely be even worse on the offensive line this fall. With Duke’s experience along the defensive line, players such as Kenny Anunike and Sydney Samiento should have big afternoons.

Chris: Duke ran up 500 yards of total offense on the Tigers last year even though they turned the ball over four times. I expect the Stable to once again run all over the Beale Street Bengals and top last years 177 yards.

Memphis Advantage:

Matt: The Tigers are actually surprising strong along the defensive line with All-conference players Martin Ifedi and Johnnie Farms. Sean Renfree threw four touchdowns in last season’s Duke win, and the Blue Devils may need another strong performance from the quarterback with Memphis’ strong front line.

Chris: I agree that this seems like the strongest advantage the Tigers will see. How young Matt Skura and the guards handle Johnnie Farms will have a huge impact on the zone read.

Duke will win if…:

Matt: Memphis was very hesitant to throw the football last season, so Duke’s run defense will need to show up in a big way. If the Blue Devils can keep the Tigers under 150 yards on the ground, it should be a relatively easy victory.

Chris: Duke prevents their turnovers. They were fortunate to win the way they did last season while committing four turnovers. It would be a fools errand to expect to get away with it again, this time at Memphis.

Confidence Rating: 8.5

Georgia Tech

Duke Advantage:

Matt: The Yellow Jackets consistently struggled to stop the run under the direction of defensive coordinator Al Groh. Although the team is switching back to the 4-3, the only proven player along the defensive front is Jeremiah Attaochu, who spent his first three seasons at linebacker. Duke should be able to run the ball effectively against the Jackets.

Chris: Last year, GT held Duke to only 77 yards on the ground, one of it’s best defensive showings of the season. I don’t expect that to be much different this season and expect to see Boone take advantage of the secondary. They’ve slipped the last few years and will have to replace a 14 game starter from last season in a defensive backfield that gave up 230 yards per game and a 60% completion rate.

Georgia Tech Advantage:

Matt: Duke is more experienced up front on defense, but there is a dearth of consistent playmakers in the back seven. Kelby Brown, Jeremy Cash and Ross Cockrell should be ready for the spread option attack, but the Blue Devils don’t have enough talent in the back seven to stop Vad Lee and Georgia Tech’s offensive weapons consistently.

Chris: When I think of defending the option, my first concern is having enough speed and sure tacklers. Brown is a sure tackler enough but I don’t think Duke has enough of them to consistently stuff the GT option. The Jackets will win this game on dashes to the outside.

Duke will win if…:

Matt: The Blue Devils will have problems slowing down Georgia Tech’s offense, but that can all be offset if they can force turnovers. If Duke can force three turnovers on the afternoon, the Blue Devils have a good chance of pulling the upset.

Chris: Boone has a career day. The secondary, while experienced, is the softest area to pick on for the Blue Devils. If Boone can continually find seams down field, Duke can win this game with a solid defensive effort.

Confidence Rating: 2.5


Duke Advantage:

Matt: While Duke will have one of the strongest special teams units in the entire country with kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday, Pittsburgh will not be so fortunate in the third phase of the game. The Panthers will have a freshman kicker this season, and also return a punting unit which finished 121st in punt return defense last fall.

Chris: Pittsburgh was pretty poor running the ball last season and might be even worse this year. If Foxx and Sarmiento can contain the run well enough to force Pitt into throwing downs, Duke should be able to control the clock and the game.

Pittsburgh Advantage:

Matt: Duke has grown a reputation for throwing the football, but Pittsburgh will likely have one of the better defensive backfields in the conference. Pittsburgh is also very talented up front, and should be able to get consistent pressure on Duke’s quarterback.

Chris: It’s going to be tough to pass on that Pitt secondary. They return six of their top eight and are much more experienced.

Duke will win if…:

Matt: Keeping the quarterback clean will be absolutely pivotal in this game. Duke’s quarterback will like need a little extra time to find open receivers against Pittsburgh’s strong secondary. If the offensive line can keep Anthony Boone clean, the Blue Devils have a good chance to beat the Panthers in the teams’ first conference showdown.

Chris: If the running game finds the gaps. The secondary might not lock the passing game down but it will be difficult to find much production through the air. However, the running game should be a strength of Duke in this game and if they are able to churn out first downs on the ground, they can win.

Confidence Rating: 5