Duke and Pittsburgh face each other for the first time as ACC foes. The game will be played at 12:30 at Wallace Wade. Duke heads into the game at 2-1 while Pittsburgh enters at 1-1 after a bye in week 2. Pittsburgh comes in with one of the most lethal passing attacks in the league lead by standout wide receiver Devin Street, who Duke coach David Cutcliffe said earlier this season may be best receiver in the ACC. They also have another stud at WR in freshman Tyler Boyd along with their two running backs James Conner and Isaac Bennett who have split the snaps this year and both played pretty well. After Street and Boyd, no other wide receivers have even caught a pass. Their 3 tights end have made a small impact with Manasseh Garner making the biggest impact with a touchdown catch.
The strength of Pittburgh’s defense has been their front seven, with Aaron Donald leading the way. He has made a pretty big impact so far this year, especially against New Mexico. Their secondary returned most of the starters, but surprisingly played very poorly against FSU. They played better against a struggling New Mexico, although they have one of the worst passing games in the nation. They made Jameis Winston look like Joe Montana in his first college start as a freshman and will need to improve their secondary if they want any kind of sustained success on defense this year.
Duke comes in with a few questions offensively. The first is how will back up quarterback Brandon Connette perform in his 2nd start. Brandon played pretty well in the Memphis game when starter Anthony Boone went down with a collarbone injury , but struggled in his second collegiate start against Georgia Tech. The other question are the wide receivers who didn’t help in the Georgia Tech game, not necessarily with drops but they had a tough time getting open the whole game. Their best receiver by far is Jamison Crowder who already has 240 yards receiving this season. Duke is pretty deep at the RB position, with Jela Duncan and Juwan Thompson getting the majority of the carries. The duo has combined for over 300 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns this season. Duke really struggled to convert third downs against Georgia Tech, going a mere 3/14. If Duke wants to keep up with Pittsburgh’s potent offense, they will have to do much better.
Duke’s first two games were against cupcakes and they struggled defensively in their first true test against GT, but you can tell this defense is improved. The defensive front is full of veterans who bring a sort of toughness that Duke has lacked in recent years, and senior Ross Cockrell leads the secondary at cornerback. Duke only allowed one touchdown in its first two games but gave up 4 passing touchdowns against GT and a rushing touchdown to Robert Godhigh. The secondary has been Duke’s weakness for years and they hope to change that this year. Neither of these defenses have been overly impressive so far, so I expect a pretty high scoring game. Weather could be a factor, as the forecast calls for rain the entire game which could affect the passing game. The difference in this game will be whether or not Duke can contain Street and Boyd, and I do not believe they will be able to. I predict Duke keeps it close for the first 2 ½ to 3 quarters, but Pitt pulls away in the 4th, 34-24.