Football Preview: Georgia Tech at Duke

GEORGIA TECH at DUKE – NOV. 14 (12 PM)

9-1 overall, 6-1 ACC

The No. 7 Jackets hit the road again this weekend to take on the Duke Blue Devils in their final ACC game of the regular season. The Jackets will look to lock up their spot in the conference championship game in Tampa Bay, Fla. by defeating the unranked Blue Devils and remaining the only one loss team in the ACC.

Last Saturday Georgia Tech narrowly defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 30-27 in overtime. Junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer once again reached a new personal best by rushing for 189 yards on 23 carries. The Jackets were offensively competitive for the whole of the game, but the defense struggled once again to contain Wake’s effective passing game, reminiscent of the Clemson and Miami games in the first half of the season. However, when the pressure was on near the end of the game, the defense got a sack to prevent a game-winning field goal attempt in regulation and held Wake to a field goal in overtime. On Tech’s ensuing drive in overtime, Head Coach Paul Johnson placed the ACC championship game on the line by going for the first down on fourth and inches, and the decision paid off.

This Saturday the Jackets will face another strong passing offense against the Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. Last year, the Jackets shut out the Devils in Bobby Dodd Stadium and controlled the clock with a time of possession of 38:46 and 454 total yards compared to Duke’s meager 132. If Tech can put together another strong offensive showing and shut down Duke’s top-15 passing attack, the odds will be in their favor. Home field advantage may not be an issue for the Jackets, as Tech is 4-1 on the road while Duke is only 2-2 at home.

If the Jackets can secure their final conference win, they will clinch the Coastal Division and secure a spot in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 5.

5-4 overall, 3-2 ACC

The 5-4 Blue Devils host the Jackets this Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C., coming off a disappointing loss to their rival North Carolina. The loss was the 19th of Duke’s last 20 games against the Tar Heels, who managed to end the Blue Devils’ first three-game win streak since 1989.

Duke’s victories over that streak against North Carolina State, Maryland and Virginia were delivered through the air by the team’s main weapon, senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, and the team’s young receivers. The team has been more successful this season under second-year Head Coach David Cutcliffe, who coached both Eli and Peyton Manning during their college careers and has helped Lewis become one of the ACC’s top passers.

Duke struggled offensively this past weekend, though, failing to score a touchdown in a game for the first time this season. UNC held the Blue Devils to a season-low 125 yards, 212 below their season average, and for the first time in five games, Lewis threw for fewer than 300 yards. UNC halted Duke’s passing game, leaving the one-dimensional Blue Devils—who are No. 118 in rushing out of 120 teams in FBS, with 614 rushing yards all season and an average of 2.2 yards per carry—without a leg to stand on. UNC running back Ryan Houston’s strong performance on the ground could be a bad omen for Duke against the No. 2 team in the nation in rushing yards per game. If the defense cannot stop Tech’s spread option offense, it could spell trouble for the Blue Devils and lead to their third conference loss.

Duke will attempt to avoid a repeat of last season’s loss to the Jackets by giving Lewis time to throw and exploiting the gaps in Tech’s pass defense. A victory on Saturday would guarantee Duke at least a .500 finish, making them bowl eligible for the first time since 1995, and it would keep their hopes of a trip to the ACC Championship Game alive.

Prediction: Tech 30, Duke 17