Duke vs. Memphis: Preview and Prediction


Aug 31, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Jamison Crowder (3) escapes from the grip of North Carolina Central Eagles defensive back Cameron Hughes (17) at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we witnessed what was an incredible start to the season by the Duke Blue Devils in their 45-0 shutout against their cross town rivals, NC Central.  And in case you haven’t heard this interesting statistic this week at all, the week 1 shutout was the first shutout by the Blue Devils since 1989 when they beat UNC 41-0.  I would also like to apologize for severely underestimating Duke’s defense in that game.  As you may remember, I predicted 17 points for the Eagles and that obviously did not happen.  The Blue Devils played extremely well last week and I must say, it was nice watching Duke win a comfortable football game no matter who the opponent is.  What can we take away from a game against an FCS team anyway?  I believe that while the week 1 drubbing against NC Central can be seen as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, there is a lot to be optimistic about this Duke team.  Looking on to the Memphis Tigers, we see that they had the first week of the season off.  They have an extra week to prepare for Duke and 2013 game film.  The Blue Devils have 2013 game experience and a lot of confidence entering week 2 of the season.

What We Know

– Last season, Memphis was 4-8 and 4-4 in the CUSA.

– 2nd year coach, Justin Fuente has named redshirt freshman QB Paxton Lynch as the starter over senior and experienced QB Jacob Karam.

– Last year, Duke put up an impressive performance against Memphis beating them 38-14 in Durham.

– Memphis returns 8 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense.

On Offense

Look for Duke to continue to run the ball with their talented running backs.  They may run into a bit of a problem, where Memphis fields their top 2 tacklers from last season in the linebacking corp.  However, I expect the playcallling for this game to be a little less vanilla and to have some creativity against this experienced defense.  Anthony Boone was a very efficient 16-20 on Saturday and I believe he will be very key for Duke this week.  If he can maintain his level of confidence and keep the ball down a little, Boone will create success for his offense.  Duke is very good at getting the ball to their playmakers in space with screens and flat routes.  This will also be key for Duke to move the chains on Saturday.  Duke’s offensive line did very well in week 1 but they will have to step it up some as the competition gets stronger this week.  Memphis boasts two of the best defensive linemen in the American Athletic Conference.  All in all Duke should have no problem moving the ball.  Duke’s potent offense should create match-up problems, especially through the air.

On Defense

Duke will be chasing a bevy of running backs who are returning, but none of them stand out statistically.  As stated above, the Tigers will be starting a freshman quarterback in his very first college start so this could play out well for the Blue Devils.  In last year’s contest, Duke garnered 4 sacks and limited their QB to 81 passing yards.  As we saw on saturday, Duke has some playmakers on defense.  I expect Duke to try to frustrate Lynch in his first start by throwing different coverages and blitz at him.  With an eager secondary, rising linebackers, and experienced defensive line, Duke is looking more fluent on defense.  Even though there is only a one game sample size, this Duke defense just looks different than in previous years.

On Special Teams

I expect Duke to continue to be explosive on returns.  There is something to be said about using your best players on special teams and Jamison Crowder was an example of how it is good to use your best players.  His 79 yard punt return for a touchdown against NC Central really set the game in motion.  I expect Ross Martin to bounce back after a rough first game that we are going to chalk up as first game jitters.  For the Tigers, Bobby McCain is still around and he returned a kick 95 yards last season.  Duke’s coverage team looked good last week and it will be interesting to see if they can keep containing opposing returners from getting too much space.

Keys to the Game

– Warm welcome for Paxton Lynch: The Blue Devils’ pass rush needs to get inside this youngster’s head and cause him to make mistakes.  If Lynch starts throwing the ball to the wrong color jersey, this game could get comfortable quick.

– Win the trenches: This is true especially on offense.  Keep Boone comfortable in the pocket and on options and he will make plays that will create scoring chances for Duke.

– Play smart: Easier said than done, I know, but if Duke simply plays smart and lets Memphis make the mistakes, they will do well enough in helping Duke to pull this game out.  This being the Tiger’s first game, they could be over anxious and nervous about getting on the field and Duke should look to exploit that.

Players to Watch

– Anthony Boone: Of course the QB is usually a good player to watch while watching a game, but this match-up could really play into Boone’s play style and he could have a really nice game if he continues to stay as efficient as he was last week.

– Kelby Brown: He led the Devils in tackles a week ago and this week he will be asked to blitz and play in the coverage.  He will be very important to Duke’s success.

– Cornerback opposite of Ross Cockrell: Facing a fresh quarterback where you have no idea what to expect from him, it can be hard reading what exactly is going to happen.  Ross Cockell is very good so we are not worried about his island, but whoever the young cornerback is who lines up on the other side will need to make good reads and react appropriately.  It is crucial for Duke’s secondary to not burnt, especially playing on the road and keeping the Tigers in the game.


Duke is the more talented team in this game, but let’s hope that they do not become too confident after last week.  Duke will not have a whole lot of trouble on offense putting points on the board.  The test will come to see exactly what Lynch does and he will probably surprise people at times during this game.  However, I don’t see Memphis making enough plays to win this game.  Duke will be 2-0 going into their conference opener against Georgia Tech.