Well, here it is. UNC squares off with Duke on Saturday and at least one of the teams is a Top-25 squad. Wait, this is football? And Duke is the ranked team? Will somebody wake me up? It may be hard to understand, but Duke has been steadily improving under the radar over the past couple of seasons. Now, Duke is #24 in the nation. Let’s take a closer look at what it will take to bring down that ugly shade of blue.
Duke sits at 9-2 with only a loss to Georgia Tech and a loss to Pittsburgh by three, both early season stumbles. Since then, they’ve had a seven game winning streak that has included flagpole victories over #14 Virginia Tech and #23 Miami. They are leading the Coastal Division of the ACC conference, sitting at a full two-game lead over UNC. The Tar Heels have their work cut out for them.
But, what will it take to bring down the Duke Blue Devils?
- Get them out of their game plan early.
One of the strongest elements of Duke’s game is their consistency. They currently sit ranked 57th nationally in both Passing Yards (239 per game) and Rushing Yards (179 per game). Then, they are 35th in the nation in the Points For category (34 points per game) and 36th in the nation in the Points Against category (22.8 points given up per game).
Duke is a very systematic football team, while UNC has to exploit this. UNC can do so by scoring early and putting dook in a hole where they have to pass. Then, by doing that, the Blue Devils have to play out of their element where they feel uncomfortable. The Tar Heels’ secondary now have the ability to play the pass because they know that’s what dook is forced to use. This will lead to knockdowns and, hopefully, turnovers.
2.Stop wide receiver Jamison Crowder.
The junior wide receiver is short in stature (5’9’’, 175 pounds) but large in statistics. This season, he’s had 83 receptions for 5 touchdowns and over 1000 yards. The next closest receiver is Tight End Braxton Deaver with 29 receptions, 4 touchdowns, and only 402 yards. Crowder is the most important receiver on dook and UNC must focus on eliminating his production.
By closing shop on Jamison’s stats in this game, the Tar Heels will have a much better chance in this game. He has to be stopped. The Duke passing game is dependent on him.
3. Exploit Duke just like Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh did.
Pittsburgh was beating Duke, 51-35, through 3 quarters. Georgia Tech was beating Duke, 31-7, through 3 quarters. What’s the one thing in common with both GT and Pitt? Ding, ding, ding, if you guessed both teams are the only ones to beat Duke this year, you are correct! This statistic highlights the importance of putting Duke in a hole early.
The significance of having to play from behind cannot be understated. It’s a psychological disadvantage. It becomes desperation for the players—who are often forced to try to go for big plays. Quarterbacks more often throw into double coverage when they are behind rather than when they are not. Running backs more often try to run laterally when playing from behind, hoping to get around defensive ends and linebackers. This is a more home-run-or-bust kind of playing that can pay big dividends for Chapel Hill.
By UNC putting Duke on its heels early, they will be the ones in the position of power throughout the rest of the game. It will be their game to lose. That’s really all you can want from a strategy point of view, if you’re part of Tar Heel nation.