Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is considered an offensive mastermind. His specialty is quarterbacks and his work with both of the Manning brothers is well known.
But this is not your typical Cutcliffe coached team. The Blue Devils are a bit offensively challenged this year and quarterback Thomas Sirk, while playing okay, has not been the main reason for Duke’s success. The Blue Devils have relied on a stellar defense led by safety Jeremy Cash to get to 3-1 on the season.
Boston College is similar. Offensively, the Eagles are anemic. Defensively, they are rock solid. That sets up a good, old-fashioned defensive slugfest this Saturday in Durham.
Boston College at Duke
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN3/RSN
Spread: Duke -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Who Will Make Plays for the Eagles?
Against Florida State, quarterback Darius Wade broke his ankle. In the Northern Illinois game, running back Jon Hilliman injured his foot. He had surgery on Sunday and will miss an extended period of time. Hilliman, by far the Eagles' biggest offensive threat, rushed for 122 yards before leaving Saturday’s game. To make matters worse, backups Myles Willis and Marcus Outlow sustained shoulder injuries, making junior Tyler Rouse this week’s go-to guy. They are also down to their backup center and the No. 3 tight end. For a team with limited offensive weapons to begin with, these losses could be devastating.
2. Sirk Throwing the Ball
No one has run on Boston College this year and it is unlikely that will change this week. Shaquille Powell is a good back and Sirk can pick up yardage on his own. But for Duke to be effective offensively, they are going to have to achieve something in the passing game. Sirk did not throw downfield much at all against Georgia Tech and the pressure BC can bring may make short passes the way to go for Duke this week. The Devils do have a pretty good offensive line, so it is possible Sirk could have time to look for deeper targets. Whether it is short or long, Duke would like to have some success throwing the ball.
3. Who Will Score?
Boston College is second in the nation giving up just 7.8 points per game. They have allowed just four touchdowns in four games and one of those was a defensive score by Florida State, another was a kickoff return in the Northern Illinois game, and a third was a four yard drive set up by an NIU interception. Duke is No. 7 in America, surrendering just 11.5 points per game. This past Saturday, they shut down a potent Georgia Tech offense. Perhaps the first score wins.
Obviously, don’t expect a replay of the TCU-Texas Tech game. Yards, never mind first downs and scores, will be hard to come by. Jeremy Cash and the Duke defense will completely stifle Troy Flutie and the Eagles offense. However, the Duke offense will have no fun trying to move the ball on the Boston College defense. The attrition that Boston College has to endure will be too much to overcome on Saturday. Duke wins a close, low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Duke 13, Boston College 7
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.