When: 4 p.m. (EST)
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium
Line: Duke by 10
Duke heads into Saturday’s matchup with N.C. State with dreams of playing in Charlotte for the ACC Championship. On the other hand, the Wolfpack just want a win, especially one in the ACC. Known as a rivalry on the basketball court, Duke and N.C. State doesn’t garnish nearly as much hype or anticipation on the football field. The only problem the Blue Devils might have on Saturday isn’t even the opponent, they mentally have to stay focused on this game and not look ahead to the Hurricanes next week. That and N.C. State’s ability to stop Duke’s offense are the keys to the game.
N.C. State has struggled on both sides of the ball most of the season, but especially offensively. Their quarterbacks have thrown for a combined 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The offensive line is one of the worst in the country at protecting the quarterback. The lone bright spot offensively has been running back Shadrach Thornton who averages 5 yards per carry and has 4 touchdowns on the season. The defense isn’t nearly as bad as the offense, with an overall ranking of 55 in the country. The defensive line returned all of the starters from last year and has played decently most the year. Senior linebacker Robert Caldwell leads the team in tackles and tackles for loss.
Duke comes into this game on an emotional high from their win in Blacksburg a few weeks ago. Some people have called it the biggest win in Duke football history, and it certainly was coach David Cutcliffe’s most satisfying victory. Normally the offense wins games for the Blue Devils, but the defense stepped up in a big way against the Hokies and shut down Logan Thomas & co. I think that will build confidence for the rest of the season and the defense will steadily keep improving. Duke should have absolutely no trouble on the offensive side of the ball Saturday, and I expect quarterback Anthony Boone to have one of the best games of his career. The Wolf Pack haven’t managed more than 19 points in a single ACC game this season but Duke’s defense isn’t good enough to take the day off. They will need to stay focused throughout the game, regardless of the opponent.
The keys to this game are whether Duke will be there mentally and if N.C. State can somehow slow down Duke’s offense and create turnovers. I am hoping that Duke doesn’t think the win against Virginia Tech means they can just roll over the weaker ACC teams, the defense still has a lot to prove. The leaders on the Blue Devils are all seniors and I believe that will eliminate any issues regarding looking past the Wolf Pack to Miami. It is never smart to pick blowouts, especially with Duke’s up and down defense, but I just think Duke is the much better team on both sides of the football and will win easily on Saturday 34-13.