Friday Night Fight, Part 2: Louisville v. Duke

Photo: 247 Sports

Last Time: The Duke Blue Devils marched to a 13-point lead in the second half, but behind Damion Lee’s 24 points, the Cardinals were able to rally back and take a 71-64 win over the Blue Devils, avenging their loss two weeks earlier at Cameron Indoor Arena.

Wait a minute, this is football we’re talking about here. Duke and Louisville have only played each other once, a 40-3 blowout victory for the Cardinals in 2002. Dave Ragone went 23/34 for 258 yards and two touchdowns, while Henry Miller accounted for 92 yards and a touchdown in the blowout victory. Louisville overcame four turnovers while holding Duke to 175 total yards.

About the Duke Blue Devils

Fast forwarding 14 years later, Duke is no longer so bad that they want to leave a football series. David Cutcliffe has completed one of the best 180s in college football, turning Duke from a perennial cellar-dweller into a competent ACC football team. In his nine seasons as the Blue Devils head coach, Cutcliffe led them to an ACC Coastal Division title in 2013, along with getting Duke football ranked for the first time in nearly 20 years. In fact, when Louisville was looking to replace Charlie Strong, Cutcliffe was one of the names that was mentioned.

In 2016, though, Duke (3-3) has been a pretty tough team to evaluate. They do have a win at Notre Dame (which even though they’re 2-4, is still impressive), but that is balanced out by losses to teams like Northwestern and Wake Forest. With replacing so many players that were instrumental in Duke’s run to a Coastal Division title like Jamison Crowder and Jeremy Cash, the Blue Devils were bound for a rebuilding of sorts, but they should be in good standing with a guy like Cutcliffe running the show in Durham. They have a somewhat young team right now (WR T.J. Rahming, QB Daniel Jones, LB Ben Humphreys to name a few), but if they can continue to develop over time, Duke could put themselves in position to contend for another division title soon.

Players to Watch

  • WR T.J. Rahming: With a young quarterback, Cutcliffe would want his top receiver to get the ball more, and he has another one that could potentially play in the NFL. Cutcliffe has already produced one receiver (Jamison Crowder), and Rahming is of a similar body type to him. Rahming is small in stature (5’10”), but has dominated targets up to this point, accumulating 5+ catches in four games in Duke’s six games so far. Rahming and fellow receiver Anthony Nash (a tall target at 6’5″) will be the guys that dominate targets from young quarterback Daniel Jones.
  • CB Breon Borders: Borders will likely be one of Louisville’s better defensive backs they face this year, along with Clemson’s Cordarius Tankersley and Florida State’s Nate Andrews. Borders is pretty well-rounded for the position, and could challenge the likes of Jamari Staples in space, or make the play in run support. With losing Devon Edwards, Borders has stepped up and played some of the better receivers pretty competitively. Duke could get some stops, if Borders and defensive tackle A.J. Wolf are able to contain Lamar Jackson’s explosive running ability.
  • LB Ben Humphreys: Humphreys is definitely one of the keys of Cutcliffe’s defense in 2016. He played a ton last season as a true freshman, including 11 tackles in the Pinstripe Bowl victory against Indiana. Humphreys was pretty highly touted coming out of high school as a 4-star linebacker, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a strong player for his position and has excellent ability at his position, and him coming back next year is a big plus for Duke in 2017.

Keys to the Game

  1. Force the turnovers. Duke has had issues with turnovers this season, mostly due to an inexperienced quarterback that they have to start. Louisville has steadily been improving their prowess at creating turnovers, especially from Jaire Alexander who had two against Clemson two weeks ago. Look for Louisville to try to continue this trend tonight, and give Lamar Jackson a short field to operate with.
  2. Utilize big play ability. Duke has actually had a decent defense up to this point, but they have been susceptible to allowing big plays down the field. If there is any coach that can exploit that weakness, it would likely be Bobby Petrino. Lamar Jackson could see some opportunities for big plays down the field and add to his Heisman campaign, whether it is down the field against an injured secondary, or trying to run for 50+ yards.
  3. Get back on track with pass protection. The offensive line was outstanding in the first month of the season, but took a step back after allowing Lamar Jackson to get sacked five times at Clemson two weeks ago. Surprisingly, Duke is one of the nation’s best at sacks with 20 in six games (#9 nationally), but with a raucous home crowd expected tonight, the offensive line should get back on track and give Lamar the time to attack the Duke defense.


Justin Krueger: 55-9 Louisville. Coming off a bye week after a loss? And the Louisville crowd is going to have their blackout game afterwards? Yes, it’s time for Bobby ball to be unleashed on the Blue Devils tonight. The defense should be able to force turnovers on a vulnerable Duke offense, and Lamar will get the six touchdowns needed to break the single-season total touchdown record.

Jeremy Wahman: 70-17, Lamar does football…

Mitch Motley: 70-3

Paige Sherrard: 42-10

LJ: 70-21

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