Previewing Duke v. Georgia Tech

The Blue Devils are no longer bowl eligible, but still look to finish 2010 on a high note.

The Blue Devils have had to deal with teams using smash-mouth tactics against them on a regular basis this year, do they hope they're used to some of those ploys when they visit Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets will try to muscle up on the Blue Devils, who rank in the middle of the ACC in rushing defense in conference games.

To some degree, the Blue Devils should be well-educated going into the Georgia Tech game. They faced option rushing teams in Army and Navy earlier this season.

The Navy game came at the end of October and should be fresh in the Blue Devils' minds. And it might help the confidence level that Duke won that game.

"Navy is not as gifted as Georgia Tech," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "Navy doesn't have the speed."

Georgia Tech leads the country with 319.3 yards per game on the ground.

But along the way this season, the Blue Devils have figured out a few things defensively. They gave up only 126 rushing yards in their last outing in the loss to Boston College. That should be a much-needed boost of confidence.

Still, the Blue Devils have surrendered more than 400 yards of total offense in more than half of their games and Georgia Tech is averaging 405.2 yards per game.

--Duke's roster has 10 players from the state of Georgia, so it will be a homecoming of sorts for some of the Blue Devils when they play Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets don't have any players from the state of North Carolina on their roster.

--Duke has yielded 35 or more points in four of the last five meetings with Georgia Tech. Last year, QB Joshua Nesbitt threw for two touchdowns and rushed for one against the Blue Devils, but he's out with an injury and won't face Duke this year.

SERIES HISTORY: Georgia Tech leads Duke 46-30-1 (last meeting, 2009, Georgia Tech 49-10).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Blue Devils failed to move the ball much on the ground against Boston College, and there could be similar resistance against Georgia Tech. There was some decent blocking along the front for the Blue Devils, but they haven't been able to spring runners free with any kind of consistency. QB Sean Renfree has made WR Conner Vernon his primary target, and yet Vernon continues to find creases in defenses to be in position to make catches, including 12 of them last week against Boston College.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This is a tough matchup for the Blue Devils, who've been vulnerable against the run this season. They handled some situations well last week against Boston College and kept the score in range. But the front line is susceptible to physical tactics, and that's something that could take a toll with Georgia Tech's triple-option. Duke's improved speed on defense has been noticeable, but whether that can make up for Georgia Tech's physical style remains to be determined.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not going to do anything differently. ... We have made strides in 2010 that we haven't made in any other year, and I know that sounds strange for a 3-7 team." -- Coach David Cutcliffe, on the objectives going into the final two games of the season knowing that the team's bowl-less streak will continue. Duke hasn't been to the postseason since 1994.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Duke at Georgia Tech, Nov. 20 -- This is Duke's first game since it has been knocked out of a chance of gaining bowl eligibility, while Georgia Tech is aiming to snap a three-game losing streak so it can play in a bowl for the 14th consecutive year. This is the home finale for the Yellow Jackets, who've won only one of three ACC games on their home turf.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Duke's defense must keep the game in hand, and that's possible against a Georgia Tech offense dealing with injuries. The game could feature fewer possessions than the Blue Devils usually have, so they'll need to be efficient when they have the ball. If Duke maximizes its opportunities, then it will be up to the defense to contain the Yellow Jackets.

RB Desmond Scott -- The sophomore has become more versatile as his elusive running has caused the coaching staff to involve him more in the offense. Scott is coming off a game in which he made a career-high six receptions. Two games ago, he rushed for the winning touchdown against Virginia.

WR Conner Vernon -- His speed is sometimes deceptive, and that gives him an edge even when opposing defensive backs know he might be a primary target in the Duke offense. He's coming off a 12-reception game against Boston College, a level that hadn't been reached by a Duke receiver since Scottie Montgomery did so 12 years earlier.

S Matt Daniels -- He's coming off a productive game against Boston College, and his ability to support close to the line of scrimmage against opponents' rushing attack is vital. He might be capable of providing a physical element that's needed against Georgia Tech.

--LB Kelby Brown, who didn't play in the season's first two games when redshirting this season was a possibility, has moved into the top 10 in single-season tackles for a Duke freshman. He has 59 stops to tie with former standout Brendan Dewan for the eighth most in school history for a freshman.

--QB Sean Renfree threw interceptions during a stretch of the season that caused alarms because the Blue Devils don't have a proven pass-oriented quarterback to back him. Recently, Renfree has become more careful with the football and he has thrown 116 consecutive passes without an interception, going three full games without a pick.

--K Will Snyderwine has provided 81 points this season, the third most in a season in Duke history. In two seasons, his 156 points rank in the top 10 at Duke.

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