When the Wake Forest Demon Deacons closed the book on a 70-56 win at Army last Saturday, the program had clinched its second-ever 7-0 start and tied the 1944 team for the longest winning streak in school history. This year's high-flying group will look to write a new chapter in the program's story when they host the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday afternoon. Duke comes to Winston-Salem off of a bye in the midst of a three-game losing streak — two of which came by at least 30 points — preceded by a trio of home wins.
One positive for the Blue Devils in this matchup is history on is their side. Duke leads the all-time series 58-40-2. These two teams didn't meet last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the first time since 1966 they didn't play each other. While the Blue Devils have the edge, Wake Forest has won two in a row and three of the last four meetings and at one point rattled off 12 victories in a row (2000-11) in the series.
Duke at No. 13 Wake Forest
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Wake Forest -16.5
When Duke Has the Ball
The Blue Devils have lost each of their six road games — dating back to the middle of October 2020 — by an average of nearly 23 points, a trend they're eager to halt when they make the short trip to Winston-Salem. In two of the three road losses this year, Duke scored just seven total points, notching a touchdown at North Carolina before being shut out two weeks later at Virginia.
Despite the inability to score many points or win a game away from Durham this season, the Blue Devils are third in the ACC and in the top 15 nationally with 472.9 yards of offense per game. Running back Mataeo Durant spearheads a rushing attack that averages 204.3 yards per game, which is fourth in the ACC. Individually, Durant (124.3 ypg) trails only Syracuse's Sean Tucker for the conference lead.
When Duke goes to the air, wide receivers Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun are the playmakers to watch. The duo has combined for 12 receptions and nearly 148 yards per game. Not surprisingly, they are both among the conference's leaders. Calhoun has put up slightly better numbers recently with 16 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown in the last three games.
The Blue Devils' offense will face a bend-but-don't-break Wake Forest defense. The Demon Deacons have been opportunistic, as their 16 takeaways — eight fumbles recovered and eight interceptions — lead the ACC and rank eighth in the FBS entering Week 9. Traveon Redd has collected three of those interceptions, including one last week which he returned 83 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. Despite allowing an ACC-high 207.7 rushing yards per game, Wake has tallied a conference-best 6.7 tackles for a loss per game and 3.14 sacks per game, both of which rank the Deacons in the top 15 in the FBS.
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
That win over Army was quite the historic performance in a number of ways for the Demon Deacons, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The 70 points were the third-highest total in school history and the most ever scored away from Winston-Salem. It also was just the second time in Army's long program history that the Black Knights allowed 70 points in a game. Sam Hartman led the way with as many total touchdowns as incompletions, completing 23 of 29 passes for career highs in yards (458) and six scores (five passing, one rushing). The five TD tosses also tied a school record. Hartman is third in the ACC with 19 touchdown passes and he's second to Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett in passer rating (173.6).
Hartman wasn't the only one who got in on the fun in the run game as 180 rushing yards helped push Wake to more than 600 total yards of offense for the game. Christian Beal-Smith led with 71 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while Justice Ellison (66 yards) and Christian Turner (23 yards) each found the end zone.
Hartman's prolific day against Army followed a pattern. Jaquarii Roberson led all receivers with eight catches for 157 and three touchdowns, more than doubling his season total entering this contest (two). A.T. Perry wasn't far behind with six catches for 146 yards and his eighth touchdown. He's tied for second in the ACC in the category behind Pitt's Jordan Addison (10). Ke'Shawn Williams also got in on the fun with 93 yards and a touchdown on just two grabs.
Wake Forest's explosive offense will be quite the test for a Duke defense that has allowed 31.6 points per game in 2021, the most by any ACC team. Not to be outdone, the nearly 445 yards per game is likewise the conference's worst as well as 111th nationally. Keeping teams off the board early is a key for this team, as Duke has limited opponents to just 10 first-quarter points in its three wins but has surrendered 38 in its four losses.
Duke has been trending in the wrong direction in recent weeks while Wake Forest is simply rolling along, in dominating fashion no less. The Demon Deacons get a quick trip home for the first of three straight against fellow Tar Heel State rivals (including a quirky non-conference tilt against North Carolina) while the Blue Devils are simply looking to right the ship after starting 0-3 in ACC play. Duke fans may not want to have their hopes up for the turnaround to start on Saturday.
Prediction: Wake Forest 41, Duke 20
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— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.