You have to admire the heart that Dukeshowed last weekend. Down 26-3 to Pittsburgh late in the third quarter, the Blue Devils made a charge and actually took a 30-26 lead with 1:25 remaining. But the defense allowed two big pass plays, the second of which resulted in Pitt’s 26-yard game-winning touchdown, and David Cutcliffe's team fell 33-30.
This week, Georgia Tech comes to Durham. The Jackets are now at 1-4 after losing at home to North Carolina this past Saturday. The difficulties due to the change in offensive system have been predictable, and as a result, the defense has taken its lumps since it has been asked to do so much.
The longtime rivals have played 86 times, with Georgia Tech winning 51.
Georgia Tech at Duke
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 12 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Raycom Sports Network
Spread: Duke -18.5
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
At least it looks like Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins has settled on a quarterback. Though his numbers weren’t good, redshirt freshman James Graham took the lion’s share of snaps last week and will be the man this coming week. Graham was perceived as the quarterback who best fit what Collins wanted to do, and with future development the main goal for the remainder of 2019, Graham has to be the starter from here on out.
Adonicas Sanders showed something as a receiver against UNC, but it is the running game that has to lead the way going forward. Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard Jr. combined for 93 yards on just 11 carries against the Heels, but Mason had 43 on one run Howard had 20 on another. The yards have to come more consistently to take pressure off the young quarterback.
The Duke defense forced Pittsburgh into four turnovers last week, and giveaways have been a big problem for the Jackets. Their 11 turnovers are tied for the most in the ACC. Devils linebacker Koby Quansah is a tackling machine and leads a unit that allows just 126 yards per game on the ground. Pittsburgh had success throwing against Duke, but it is doubtful that Georgia Tech can do the same, so look for the Blue Devils to focus on stopping Mason and Howard.
When Duke Has the Ball
Coming into the Pittsburgh game, Duke quarterback Quentin Harris was on a great roll. But it all came apart against the Panthers as the fifth-year senior had three fumbles and two interceptions while completing just 42% of his throws. Against the two best defenses on the schedule so far, Alabama and Pittsburgh, Harris is a combined 30-of-65 passing with one touchdown, four interceptions and that trio of fumbles. In Duke’s other three games, Harris is 74-of-96 with 10 touchdown throws and nary a pick.
The good news for Harris is that the Georgia Tech defense isn’t on Alabama's or even Pittsburgh's level. The Jackets' porous offense has not helped matters, but they have also had major problems stopping the run. They are allowing 246 yards per game on the ground, which is 53 yards per game more than Boston College, who ranks 13th in the ACC. Deon Jackson is a quality back who will certainly be featured in Duke’s gameplan this week.
If the Jackets can slow Jackson down, they can keep the game competitive as they have a solid pass defense. Tech is third in the ACC in that department and has intercepted five passes. Of course, because teams can run so effectively against them, the Jackets have had to defend fewer passes than any other league team.
Georgia Tech has had trouble moving the football all year long, and Duke has a solid defense. Both Harris and Jackson are quality runners, and Georgia Tech has given up at least 198 yards rushing in four of its five games. Duke is also coming off a tough loss in which it made a ton of mistakes, and the Devils are at home this week. None of that bodes well for the Jackets. The Devils will bounce back with an easy win at home to move to 4-2.
Prediction: Duke 31, Georgia Tech 10
— 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.