After beating Virginia two weeks ago Duke became bowl game eligible once again. Although as Duke rolls into the Steel City this weekend that will be a distant thought as they find themselves in a similar spot to where they were last year at this time. Duke has much larger goals on their mind this week as they now sit atop the Coastal Conference standings, where they finished last regular season before losing a rough one against Florida State in the ACC championship game. If there is one conclusion that can be made from all this it’s that Duke with David Cutcliffe leading the charge is no fluke. But with David Cutcliffe at the helm there is one team Duke is yet to beat in the Coastal --- Pittsburgh.
Put simply this game will come down to stopping the running attack for both defenses. Duke and Pittsburgh both rank at the top of the ACC in rushing, Duke averages 218.0 yards per game while Pittsburgh leads the ACC with 233.9 yards per game.
Duke’s front seven can expect to have their hands full with Pitt’s superb backfield led by James Conner. Despite letting Georgia Tech hang a 56-28 victory Pitt can at the minimum hold some confidence in their running game. James Conner has been at the forefront of the attack to this point this season, putting up 120 rushing yards on 10 carries culminating in three touchdowns. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore running back Rachid Ibrahim can expect to get a few opportunities after going for 60 rushing yards on 3 carries in which one of the carries led to a 50 yard pick up. Faced with the challenge of Duke’s highly ranked defense one can expect Pitt to try and keep Duke’s defense as uncertain possible and give Ibrahim some significant chances. Additionally, Pitt’s attack through the air has a chance to have an impact if they can get they can be just as effective on the ground. Starting for Pitt at quarterback this year has been Chad Voytik who has shown to be as unpredictable as the 4-4 team he plays for. Despite throwing for 9 touchdowns Voytik has tossed an interception in six of his team’s eight games giving uncertainty as to what can be expected this week.
Stemming from the other sideline will be a nearly equally potent ground attack. In addition, to Duke’s array of running backs, Josh Snead, Shaquille Powell, and Shaun Wilson, Duke’s quarterback, Anthony Boone, has proven to pose as a running threat to opposing defenses in his time behind center for the Blue Devils. Nonetheless, behind Boone’s leadership on offense Duke can expect to perhaps find its avenue to victory this weekend. To this point Boone has a total of 9 touchdowns while throwing just 3 interceptions. Two weeks ago at home against Virginia Boone threw for an efficient 176 yards on 22/37 while effectively averaging eight yards per carry on the ground. Additionally expect Duke to counter its aerial attack with contributions from all three of Duke’s leading rushers. Throughout the season to this point each of the three have played significant roles making it hard to tell who will be seen most in the backfield in this game despite Powell seeing the most success two weeks ago with 68 yards on 11 carries. Though one thing can be certain and that is that coming off a bye week Duke can be expected to have game plan devised to maximize the talent they have at the running back position.
As previously stated this game will come down to defense and slowing each team’s running game for which case the upper-hand has to be given to Duke, ranking 4th in the FBS to this point in points allowed. Although before giving up 56 to Georgia Tech last Saturday Pittsburgh was yet to allow more than 20 to anybody in a single game. Either way a player to keep an eye on this side of the ball is Duke junior safety Jeremy Cash who was a second team All-American last season and may be even better this fall. Cash has two interceptions to go with one fumble recovery and 1.5 sacks. Expect Cash to be flying around Heinz Field tomorrow disrupting the already inconsistent passing attack of Chad Voytik.
Stock Sez- Duke 36, Pittsburgh 20
Duke will focus students back on football after the bye and force them to keep an eye on football as Cameron Crazy season in Krzyzewskiville inches closer by the minute. Duke will definitely be tested as they go on the road up north to Pittsburgh this Saturday but expect them to take control early. Duke has too many weapons offensively not to mention wide receiver Jamison Crowder who is three catches away from passing Sammy Watkins for second most catches all-time in the ACC. Expect Pitt to gain traction in its ground game at home (125+ yards) but will not be enough to turn the tides of the game.
Start TIme- 12 PM Eastern
Date- November 1st
Location- Pittsburgh, PA