At a combined 1-3 in theACC, Duke and Georgia Tech find themselves looking up at everyone else in the Coastal Division. It’s obviously still very early, but neither team wants an uphill climb for the rest of the year, which adds importance to this weekend's clash.
Duke is coming off its open date, which was beneficial because the Blue Devils had some regrouping to do after getting beat soundly by Virginia Tech on Sept. 29. Having extra time to prepare for the Georgia Tech option is nice as well. And the Yellow Jackets running game was humming last Saturday. Paul Johnson’s group rolled over a struggling group of Louisville Cardinals 66-31.
Duke at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 12:20 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Georgia Tech -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Daniel Jones
It’s amazing that Jones was back in the starting lineup just three weeks after breaking his clavicle. Statistically, it was a pretty good effort by the junior from Charlotte, as he completed 23-of-35 throws for 226 yards. But Jones has always been dangerous running the ball, and David Cutcliffe does not want to subject his star quarterback to any unnecessary hits at this time. Can the Duke offense — which had problems generating a running game against Virginia Tech — move the ball with a one-dimensional Jones?
2. Who will be more disruptive on defense?
Against Georgia Tech’s offense, you don’t want to take unnecessary risks. That being said, Duke would like to put the Jackets in bad down-and-distance situations as often as possible. The Yellow Jackets defense was rebuilt this offseason to provide more pressure on the opposition, but to this point, that plan hasn’t exactly come to fruition. Their eight sacks are tied for 96th nationally, and their 22 tackles for lost yardage rank 117th. With Jones still limited, Georgia Tech wants to find a way to make him uncomfortable.
3. As Taquon Marshall goes...
So goes the Georgia Tech offense. In losses to Pittsburgh and Clemson, the Georgia Tech quarterback ran for less than three yards per carry and completed just 33 percent of his passes for a total of 95 yards. But in the wipeout of Louisville, Marshall rushed for 175 yards and a couple of scores. Because the running game was so strong, he attempted only two passes. Duke saw the good and the bad in the Georgia Tech signal caller in last year’s 43-20 Blue Devils victory. Marshall ran for 140 yards but completed only 3-of-13 throws.
Duke has a pretty good rushing defense, and as Coastal rivals the Devils see the Jackets every year, so the coaching staff knows what to expect. The Yellow Jackets did pile up 542 rushing yards last week and have scored 129 points in the last two games. But that success came against Bowling Green and Louisville, two teams that are horrendous against the run. The Blue Devils have gotten victories at Northwestern and Baylor this year, and with running backs Brittain Brown and Deon Jackson taking some pressure off Jones, Duke will win in Atlanta.
Prediction: Duke 28, Georgia Tech 24
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.