Previewing Duke vs. Maryland

The Duke Blue Devils got a much needed bye this past weekend, after getting thumped by FSU in their last contest. This week, the Devils will travel to College Park, Maryland to take on the Maryland Terrapins. After starting 0-2 , the Terps are now riding a 4 game winning streak. They are hot, and definitely will be a formidable challenge for the Blue Devils. Lets see how the teams stack up.

When Duke has the ball:

Duke has been inconsistent on offense. They seem to play well in spurts, but then go long stretches were they are completely unable to move the ball. Many factors, such as play-calling, poor scheme execution, and inexperience at QB, are to blame. The Terps are giving up only 275.0 yards per game, second-best in the ACC. Running back Chris Douglas is currently the ACC's second leading rusher, averaging 79 yards per game. He, along with fellow runner Alex Wade, will be challenged by the Terrapin front 7. Against Clemson, they forced the Tiger offense to be completely one-dimension. They allowed a ridiculous –13 yards on the ground. Maryland is also allowing a meager 171 yards per game through the air. Despite this gaudy statistic, the pass is probably the best way to attack Maryland. Quarterback Mike Schneider got a baptism by fire against Florida State, but was very effective against the ‘Noles for stretches. If he can become more consistent, he should have a pretty good day.

When Maryland has the ball:

For the past two seasons, Maryland has been very efficient on offense by controlling the clock and converting in the red-zone. Most of the personnel on offense is the same, however, the offense has not been nearly as effective scoring points. QB Scott McBrien was really struggling early in the season. He was being indecisive in the pocket for whatever reason and was forced to scramble more than usual. The last few weeks, however, he has become much more comfortable and is starting to play well. Maryland has also been hit by injuries to its two biggest offensive playmakers, RB Bruce Perry and WR Steve Suter. Both played last week against Clemson, but neither is 100%. With their limited effectiveness, the Terps are not nearly as explosive on offense as they have been. Like the offense, the Duke defense has played adequately in spurts but has not been consistently able to slow offenses down, especially on the ground. Duke has given up nearly 1000 yards on the ground this season in only 5 games. This is a far cry from the ACC's best rush defense in 2002. While injuries along the defensive line have been partly to blame, the tackling has been horrific to date. Maryland is one of the best rushing offenses in the conference, so Duke must concentrate on slowing the ground game down. They must make Maryland throw the ball to score points.

Keys to the game:

Red-zone execution – This one is easy. Duke was blown out last game because of their inability to score points in the red-zone. Duke has 5 red-zone chances and scored a total of seven points. On the other hand FSU had five chances and scored five touchdowns. If Duke scores three or four TDs in the red-zone, the game would have had an entirely different complexion. Duke must convert red-zone chances into touchdowns.

Stop the run – Maryland is big, tough, and mean up front. They are averaging 176 yards per game on the ground. They have two capable backs in Bruce Perry and Josh Allen. Duke has to hold Maryland under 150 yards rushing if they are to have any chance in this game. The Duke defense should start watching videotape of last season and figure out what they did, because it worked.

Survive the onslaught – In the last two meetings, the out come of the game was decided by the middle of the second quarter. Duke was outscored 93-10 in the first halves of the last two contests. They cannot let Maryland get on a run and score quickly. Their defense is too good to have Duke try and play from behind.

Final Analysis:

The schedule makers did not do the Devils any favors this year, other than the well-timed bye week. After coming off a severe beating at the hands of Florida State, Duke must now face its toughest road challenge of the year. Maryland is now playing like many though they would play this season, winning its last 4 games. With the struggles of North Carolina State and Virginia, Maryland is eyeing second place in the ACC. They will probably be favored in the rest of their games this season, and are a 28-point favorite this weekend. Maryland's early season struggles are over and Duke will need a mammoth effort to stay close in this one. Based on their play to date, it doesn't look very likely. Duke has not shown the ability to consistently put the ball in the end zone, and Maryland sure isn't going to do the Devils any favors. I expect Maryland to score fairly consistently early, and then grind it out to salt the game away. Duke will finally show some life offensively late, but it won't be enough.

Final Score:

Maryland – 41 Duke – 21

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