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UNC Football vs. Duke: Game Preview

Blue Devils catch Carolina at the worst possible time.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Chick-fil-A Kickoff - Duke v Alabama
Huge Nerd
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After enjoying a Halloween cupcake, (in this case, beating Charlotte 53-19) you could forgive Duke for suddenly feeling ill. Carolina laid an egg on primetime for the second time this season, and the Blue Devils are next on the schedule. Readers will recall that when UNC was similarly humiliated in Tallahassee, they bounced back immediately and beat the life out of NC State. A noon kickoff should keep the Tar Heels from being too sleepy to come back to life.

Carolina has made a nasty habit of losing to “bad” teams. Florida State was 1-3 when they took on the Heels, and Virginia was 1-4. These teams are not better than their records. Carolina could, and should, have beaten both of them. Now Duke enters the conversation.

Mack Brown is wary of the threat posed by Duke. During yesterday’s press conference, he took note of Duke’s run offense, special teams, and pass rush, all components that Carolina has struggled against at different times this season.

Duke Offense

Hmm... There’s so much good and bad to parse out. Chase Brice, the Clemson transfer quarterback, has not been the player many felt would take the mantle from Daniel Jones as a pocket passer capable of running the team with clean performances. The junior signal caller is only completing 55% of his passes on the season, and has an atrocious 7:11 touchdown to interception ratio.

That’s turrible! Brice is a liability. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, they do have two dangerous running backs. Deon Jackson and Mataeo Durant have combined for 1,007 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. That’s good enough to get the job done against Carolina’s run defense as it stands now.

It remains to be seen what adjustments Jay Bateman will make after Virginia ran at will against the Heels. The silver lining is that the game film will be instructive, and we may see an inspired defensive performance along the lines of the NCSU game, when the Heels held the Wolfpack to 53 yards rushing.

Duke’s receivers lack game changers, and the majority of their touchdowns come on the ground. Tar Heel fans may end up punching their couches a few times thanks to wideout Jake Bobo, a tall (6’5”) possession receiver who will dink and dunk first downs, and tight end Noah Gray, another big body who leads the team in receptions.

Duke Defense

After shaking off the cobwebs from the five sacks he took in Charlottesville, Sam Howell needs to refocus quickly, because Duke has some pretty nasty pass rushers; Chris Rumph and Victor Dimukeje. These monsters have a combined 15 sacks that total 103 negative yards. Their sacks this season are like a kick-off return for a touchdown!

Duke’s team defense is opportunistic. They have six interceptions and seven forced fumbles, all recovered. However, they have been turned out by star offensive players, the kind that litter UNC’s two-deep roster. To whit:

  • Kyren Williams (Notre Dame): 112 yards rushing, 93 yards receiving, 2 touchdowns
  • Zay Flowers (Boston College): 5 receptions, 162 yards (longest play, 61 yards), 1 touchdown
  • Wayne Taulapapa (Virginia): 95 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns
  • Khalil Herbert (Virginia Tech): 207 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns

It’s easy to picture Michael Carter, Javonte Williams, Dazz Newsome and the Brown Brothers adding their names to that list, huh?


UNC: 45

Dook: 28