UNC-Duke Preview

Saturday is Senior Day

Inside Carolina's Miller Safrit takes a look at the grid iron match-up of what has become known around the Chapel Hill-Durham area as "The Battle of the Blues." The Tar Heels have maintained possession of the Victory Bell for 11 straight seasons, and they don't intend to give it up this year.

UNC Offense vs. Duke Defense

Running game

Over the last two weeks, North Carolina has mustered a combined total of sixty-seven yards rushing. Offensive Coordinator Gary Tranquill knows this is more a part of his line not blocking than anything else. The way his offense works is based on the effectiveness of the run, and then throws over the top.

However, if there is a cure for the woes of Andre Williams, it certainly stands in the form of Duke. Against two of the three worst defenses in the ACC, UNC ran for 219 yards and 234 yards against Clemson (#7) and Virginia (#8) respectively. The Blue Devils are even worse in giving up 242 yards a game (40 more than Virginia) and 5.12 yards a run (.9 more than Virginia). Outside linebacker Ryan Fowler makes most of the stops for Duke, but the UNC running game could limit his number of hits.


Passing Attack:

Welcome back, Ronald Curry. You get to throw on the worst pass efficiency defense in the conference. His big play ability combined with Durant picking Duke apart can and will throw the Blue Devils off-balance. Bosley Allen is questionable for the game (he probably will not celebrate as much in the future), which limits the speed on the outside in the North Carolina receiving corp. Therefore, play-action is key to the big passing plays for UNC.

Duke is not the worst passing defense statistically. That honor goes to Virginia. However, this stat lies. One team has fewer passing attempt against them (Clemson). However, Duke has the fewest team interceptions, highest opponent passing percentage, second highest yards per attempt, and second most touchdowns. The Duke secondary overall is young, starting a redshirt-freshman and two second-year players with a combined two interceptions.

Offensive keys to the game:

Big play after big play after big play. Duke has neither the talent nor the depth to catch up from a big play. If UNC goes up top early and often, the party can begin quickly.

Who is tough enough to block? UNC coaches Robbie Caldwell and Ken Browning questioned the offensive line the entire week to see who has the ability to play. Who can pick up a blitz, and who has the guts to run block. Expect a big hit or nine.


Duke Offense vs. UNC Defense:

Running game

North Carolina sorely missed Will Chapman the past two weeks. The number one run stopper on the defensive line is gone for the year to a knee injury, helping Georgia Tech and Wake Forest run nearly unstopped up the middle, thus setting up the outside runs and counters. David Thornton and Quincy Monk both did a good job of tackling, but the running backs were five yards down the field before the Tar Heel linebackers could drag them down.

Duke's rushing offense is not the worst in the league, but the yards per rush are second to last. Sophomores Chris Douglas actually has a chance to run for 1000 yards this year by averaging 175 yards per game against UNC and Clemson, so rest assured he plans on going hard in Kenan Stadium. However, it is behind a relatively inexperienced line, which has two seniors and three sophomores, but the right side is huge (averaging 315 pounds).


Passing game:

D. Bryant threw for 400 yards against NC State last week, so he is right on his game. However, this is a game of who will bend first. Bryant has the most interceptions this year in the ACC and the North Carolina secondary has the fewest (2). However, Michael Waddell is due, having the most pass breakups in the ACC with 12. Duke has not qualms about throwing the ball 50 times (again, see NC State game).

Keep an eye on Julius Peppers. Word is that he lost tons of money the last two weeks, and needs an excellent game to solidify the number one overall position in this year's draft. Duke is certainly helping him by sending out an experienced, but young LT in Drew Strojny. At 6-7, 285, the sophomore is believed he can solidify the left side of the line for the next two years. This should present an interesting match-up to watch (one of few).

Defensive keys:

Make the hit behind the line. The problem with the last two weeks for UNC is the lack of contact behind the line. Quick hitters exploited the inside of the defensive line, so get a hand on the ankles, not the thighs.

Make a play. Few people are making plays, and nobody is forcing a turnover. Pressure creates bad plays, so with a lack of talent across the ball, UNC Coach John Bunting may want to go after the backfield.

Get in the rookies some playing time. Not only does this mean more experience for next year, but that the Tar Heels have a large lead.


Final Analysis:

Duke does not have the talent at any spot on the roster to keep up with UNC for the entire game. They did not in any of their games this year, any they kept two games respectable for the most part.

Final score: 45-10

Game ball: Offensive Line

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