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Week 3's Top 10: Duke v. Northwestern

The Blue Devils will look to move to 3-0 on the season when they face off against Northwestern on Saturday in the new Wallace Wade Stadium. Here's our updated Top 10 list of the most crucial and best performing players for Duke heading into the third game.

1. Jeremy Cash, SENIOR, SAFETY
Last Week: 1

Cash continues his role as the team's best overall football player by factoring in as the designated "big play guy" for the Duke defense.  Cash has 11 tackles on the season and is just 54 stops from hitting 300 career tackles.  


Last Week: 4

Accounting for 379.0 yards per contest and leading Duke to nearly 600 yards and 46 points per game.  He's thrown 62 passes this season without an interception and 76 straight over the course of his career - a Duke record.  Sirk has accounted for 36 points through his first two games, tied for the eighth most in the country.  He's also showcased a complete control of the offense during those games, but we're also learning that the playbook had yet to be fully opened though several players are contributing.

"Obviously you would probably start with the quarterback because he’s the center of it, but we’ve got some guys being good players or great players or outstanding players as we grade them."

3. Devon Edwards, SOPHOMORE, SAFETY

Last Week: 2

Much like his fellow safety, Edwards had a very strong game against Tulane and then performed when needed against a clearly overmatched NC Central team.  On special teams, Edwards leads all active ACC players in kickoff returns for TDs (4) and kickoff return average (28.86). 

Along with the rest of the defense, the season's real test begins on Saturday.  We would expect both he and Cash to be near 10 tackles each.

Last Week: 5

Wilson was Duke's most explosive playmaker outside of Jamison Crowder early in 2014.  And that's true of the sophomore through the first two games of 2015 as well.   He's rushing for an average of 4.2 yards per carry so far this year and showed his ability to make big plays a week ago by taking a simple screen pass and turning it into an 89 yard touchdown.  In a game that promises to be extremely physical and probably somewhat of a grinder, Wilson's ability to break things open will be something Duke is looking for early.  

5. Johnell Barnes, JUNIOR, WIDE RECEIVER

Last Week: 3

Barnes is the top receiver on the roster, and the top option.  Aside from an early mistake, Barnes was terrific against Tulane before being somewhat of a non-factor (arguably by design) against criminally overmatched NCCU in Week Two.  With Sirk likely facing more pressure than he's seen in the first two weeks combined, Barnes and the other receivers will need to get off the line quickly and provide options.  And, after receivng the ball, they'll need to make things happen after the catch.

6. Breon Borders, JUNIOR, CORNERBACK 
Last Week: 10

Borders is tied with Cash for the team lead with 11 tackles on the season.  He's also logged 1.5 tackles for loss and half a sack in two weeks as Duke has worked to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  That's the plan against Northwestern who will start a redshirt freshman averaging just over 125 yards passing per game.

7. Will Monday, JUNIOR, PUNTER 
Lask Week: 6

Like Martin, Will Monday simply does his job and does it very well.  He's punted seven times and has had six of those kicks downed inside the 20 yard line.  Not only is he pinning opponents with precision punts, he's also preventing them from even attempting a return.  Duke has allowed just seven punt return yards this season.  A year ago?  He limited opponents to just 33 return yards.

8. Ross Martin, JUNIOR, KICKER
Last Week:9

As noted with Monday, Ross Martin is part of a duo of specialists who may be the best in the ACC.  Martin has 336 career points and has scored 13 points in each of the first two games.  Against NC Central he became Duke’s career field goal leader (56).  

9. Zavier Carmichael, SOPHOMORE, LINEBACKER
Last Week: 8

The new starter provided, arguably, the play of the night with a terrific diving interception during the second half of the season opener.  He's continued the strong start to his career as a starter by ranking third on the team in tackles.  In a year when Duke has upgraded the speed and closing ability of the linebackers by necessity and circumstance, Carmichael has played extremely well and will be tested by the Northwestern ground game.

10. Braxton Deaver, SENIOR, TIGHT END
Last: 2

Deaver's return to Duke triggered thoughts of the sixth year senior being one of the top options in the Blue Devils' passing attack.  So far it hasn't come to pass, but Cutcliffe made a point to praise Deaver's blocking and contributions in that area to date.   With the style and roster Northwestern brings on both sides, it's likely that Deaver's contribution level will increase this weekend.  

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