Wake Forest (3-8) at Duke (8-3)Nov. 29, 7:00, ESPNU
Here's The Deal: And just like that, Duke’s season took a dramatic turn for the worse. The team that had seized complete control of the Coastal Division let it slip through its hands with back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina … at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Devils were ambushed by the Tar Heels last Thursday in one of the worst losses of the David Cutcliffe era. Duke looks to change course against longtime rival Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons have taken their lumps during this rebuilding year, but gave rookie head coach Dave Clawson an important talking point with last Saturday’s overtime upset of the Hokies.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: The Deacons may be overmatched, but they’re still scrapping every week and every play. The Virginia Tech win, for instance. Plus, the defensive personnel is much better than the overall team record might indicate. Corners Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel make it difficult to throw on Wake Forest, increasing the likelihood that the Duke offense will continue to stumble. The Nov. 1 Pitt game aside, the Devils have been a major disappointment with the ball once league play began.
Why Duke Might Win: Things won’t get better for the Deacon offense this week in Durham. Wake has scored 13 or fewer points in more than half of this year’s game, a level of futility that’ll continue on Saturday. The Devils are stingier on defense than they showed last week, particularly against the pass. They’ve given up only nine touchdown passes, and DBs Jeremy Cash, Breon Borders and Devon Edwards will be a problem for still-developing rookie QB John Wolford.
Who To Watch Out For: QB Anthony Boone has been a big disappointment this season, the biggest reason the Duke offense has stalled so frequently. This hasn’t been the same player that carved up Texas A&M in last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl. Boone has two more chances to end his career on an upbeat note, before handing the reins off to Coach Cut’s next young pupil behind center.
What’s Going To Happen: Duke has been exposed in recent weeks, but a visit from Wake Forest will give the Blue Devils a chance to right the ship before their bowl game. The Deacons will struggle all night to sustain drives, making it unnecessary for Boone and the Devils to overextend on offense. They’ll build an early and then play keep-away on the ground over the final two quarters.
Prediction: Duke 31 … Wake Forest 13
Line: Duke -19.5, o/u: 43