Duke at North Carolina
Time: 2:30 PM CT, Saturday
Spread: DUK -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Duke Blue Devils have been building momentum for several seasons, and it is seeming to all come to fruition in 2017: Duke is 3-0 as it travels to face ACC rival North Carolina Saturday at 2:30 PM (Central Time) on ESPNU as 2.5-point favorites. The respect the Blue Devils have craved has finally come, and UNC will try to hold off Duke in a game that should feature plenty of scoring given the high over/under of 66.5 points assigned by college football oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Perhaps more important than Duke’s undefeated mark thus far is the way its disposed of the three opponents: No game has been close. It predictably destroyed North Carolina Central 60-7 in Week 1, but the blowout wins over Northwestern (41-17) and Baylor (34-20) perhaps spoke much louder as to just how strong the Blue Devils’ offense now really is.
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Instrumental in that dominance has been quarterback Daniel Jones. He boasts a 64.8 percent completion ratio on 702 yards with four touchdowns and two picks. His passer rating is a strong 129.7, and he has received plenty of help from his top two receivers. T.J. Rahming and Aaron Young have combined to catch for over 300 yards, and Young has averaged 16.5 yards per catch on his eight receptions. The yards-after-catch for Young has been impressive, especially given that Jones is averaging just 6.69 yards per reception on a team-wide basis.
And the backfield has not been asleep, either, hardly. Shaun Wilson has rushed 41 times for 293 yards, good for 7.1 yards per attempt, including a 65-yard TD run already this season. He leads the team with four rushing TDs, and Brittain Brown has been strong as a No. 2 back. Brown has 235 yards on one more touch than Wilson (42) while having put together a 39-yard TD rush of his own this season, along with two touchdowns.
Duke has 10 rushing TDs on the year and is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt as a team. The balance Duke has sought for so long offensively has arrived, and it has made the Devils a very tough team to deal with—unpredictable and volatile are two words to describe one of the ACC’s best offensive attacks, at least thus far.
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Can North Carolina slow them? That is a tough proposition. UNC already gave up 35 points to UCLA and surrendered another 47 to Louisville in Week 2, as it began the season 0-2. Last week brought the Tar Heels first victory as it plowed through Old Dominion with a 53-23 victory. The Tar Heels lost three key starters for the season already, with Andre Smith, William Sweet and Thomas Jackson all out for the year. That hardly bodes well. Smith and Sweet were vital to a defense that has not been overwhelmingly successful anyway.
A good place to look at what UNC can and cannot do defensively is with what happened against Louisville. Though Lamar Jackson has dominated almost everyone, he certainly did so against North Carolina as he threw for 393 yards and rushed for another 132 yards, accounting for three passing TDs and three via the rush. Jackson was dominant, and though Jones of Duke is hardly the dual-threat talent Jackson is, he will not receive too pressing pass rushes, and that means he really could get going in this one.
We expect Duke to cover the spread, win, improve to 4-0 and continue its statements in what is now becoming one of the most respected pigskin programs in the ACC in a school so long labeled as “hoops only.” Of course, its opponent is much the same, but this seems to be Duke’s season—and hardly the same can be said for Tar Heels, injuries having plenty to do with their disappointments.