Previewing Boston College

After an unexpectedly slow start the Blue Devils face a must win situation as they travel north to face the Eagles of Boston College in Chestnut Hill.

Luckily the Eagles represent a team that Duke not only can beat, but one that the Blue Devils perhaps should beat. Of course projecting a team that dropped a pair of home games - one to an unranked FCS opponent and the other a 30 point drubbing - may not be a winning enterprise, but someone has to emerge from Alumni Stadium with the season's first victory.

Dropping to 0-3 would likely snuff out any remaining post season hopes for either team. A victory could serve as a spark for proving the early season struggles are not indicators of how the last 10 games of the year will play out.

Of the two teams the Blue Devils may have shown the most promise through week two. The Duke offense has shown the ability to move the ball up and down the field though the big scoring play has been lacking. And, unexpectedly, so has the kicking game.

Faltering in the red-zone and the inability to take points off special teams undoubtedly cost Duke the game in the season opener. In week two, against a top 5 opponent, it cost the Blue Devils the momentum and potentially the halftime lead.

Defensively the Duke defense has been stronger than expected in the early going thanks to a high pressure 4-2-5 approach designed to pressure the opposing quarterback. Against the Eagles that pressure may be rewarded as Boston College enters the game with a number of questions facing an offensive unit that will be without its best player, ACC Preseason Player of the Year, RB Montel Harris.

Without Harris the Eagles have only mustered 10 points per contest and just over 80 yards per contest while putting additional pressure on quarterback Chase Rettig and the passing attack. It's added up to an attack that ranks just 101st in the country.

A season ago Rettig was the deciding factor in BC's 21-16 victory over the Blue Devils, throwing a pair of touchdowns as the Eagles extended a 7-6 halftime lead into 21-6 advantage. This year, however, Rettig is not only down the steady and balancing presence of Harris, but he's also down one of the team's top wide outs after Ifeanyi Momah tore an ACL in the season opener against Northwestern. In addition to the loss of a top target, the Eagles are facing questions on the line of scrimmage where starting center Mark Spinney and left guard Nate Richmond were both injured against Central Florida and may be sidelined Saturday.

With a pair of inexperienced backups being called into extended roles, the Blue Devils will look to increase the pressure on Rettig - something opponents have been able to do through the first two Boston College games. UCF and Northwestern combined to hit Rettig six times while forcing three interceptions.

Duke will look to exploit those numbers after learning several crucial lessons against Andrew Luck and Stanford a week ago. In that game Duke was able to get pressure on the likely top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but not enough. The Blue Devils enter the game ranked 81st in the country against the pass and 84th in total defense.

Defensively the Eagles will look to improve on their early season start - most notably against the run where Boston College opponents have attempted to move the ball on the ground 67 percent of the time for an average of 4.7 yards per carry and 231 yards per game. It's a start contrast from a season ago when the Eagles' defense led the nation in rush defense.

With a serious reduction of resistance against the rush, Eagle opponents are only calling a pass play one out of every three opportunities this year which may explain why Boston College ranks 41st against the pass. Certainly the Eagle linebackers are among the top units in the conference with Luke Kuechly leading the way, but the secondary has been inconsistent in allowing opponents to convert third down situations 41 percent of the time.

Look for the Blue Devils to attempt to establish the run early on behind sophomore Juwan Thompson who enters the game averaging over five yards per carry before quarterback Sean Renfree dials up some potentially explosive down field looks. Something the players and coaches vowed would happen in this week's various media gatherings.

Through two weeks both teams have struggled to piece together and sense of consistency on either side of the ball. Of the two programs the Blue Devils may be in the best situation to steal a game and right the ship by capitalizing on some bad luck and injury concerns for Boston College. Look for the game to be decided in the third quarter with Duke finally finding some scoring punch in the redone.

Prediction:

Duke - 26
Boston College - 17


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