The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-2, 1-2 ACC) have had a tough time chewing on their grisly, gristly 17-14 loss to N.C. State last Thursday. Fortunately, this week they've got cupcake on the menu.
The Duke University Blue Devils (1-5, 0-3) are not a hard-luck team with talent, like N.C. State or North Carolina. They're not scrappy or dangerous like UConn. They're an undermanned, beat-up team going nowhere. Georgia Tech goes into the game a 20-point favorite, and the bulge is that low only because Tech's offense has had trouble scoring.
The Dookies head into a three-game home stand with Tech, whom the Devils can't handle; Florida State, whom they can't touch, and Wake Forest, whom they probably can't beat on a good day. Hard to blame them for preferring to line up for basketball tickets rather than hang out with 20,000 other depressed people at Wallace Wade Stadium.
To get started on what should be a reasonably satisfying afternoon for Georgia Tech fans (the sensible ones who haven't jumped off a bridge shrieking, "Who throws on first and goaaaaaaaaaalllll???!!!!"), we present some stats:
Tech is ranked 22nd in the Sagarin computer ranking after playing the nation's second-toughest schedule, Duke ranks 137th, 49th on schedule toughness.
Tech's biggest problem this year has been scoring points, despite moving the ball against everyone it played. The Jackets rank 94th nationally with 19.8 points per game. Duke gives up an average 33.5 points per game. The Devils are 57th in the nation in total defense, 89th of 117 in rushing defense. Something's gotta give, and bets are it will be wearing blue and white.
Tech doesn't have to fool anyone this time, or get key turnovers. The Jackets simply need to avoid turnovers and penalties, hit chip-shot field goals, and catch touchdown passes when they hit the nation's best receiver in his hands. Duke has had 10 straight losing seasons, and goes for number 11 Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Where they're coming from: Duke is a graveyard for coaches not named Spurrier, and Tech alum Ted Roof seems to have one foot in his. Roof electrified the Devil faithful by beating Tech after taking over in midseason in 2003, but he hasn't followed up with much since. That upset over Tech (a 41-17 stomping) gave the Devils four wins. Last year, they won two. This year, with preseason bowl hopes, they'll need a big upset to match the deuce. In 2005, Duke has won over 1-AA VMI (allowing two TDs), and lost to Navy. They lost to East Carolina. They got murdalated by 45 by Miami, 31 by Virginia, and 45 by Virginia Tech (not that that means anything, just move along).
Devils to watch: Microback Ronnie Drummer (5-9, 175) scored on an 81-yard run against Miami for the Devils' only touchdown last week. Drummer totaled 101 yards on nine carries while backing up freshman Clifford Harris (10 carries, 17 yards). Drummer, who also returns kicks is the fourth-team tailback; the first three were hurt. Linebacker Patrick Bailey is the leading tackler with just over eight per game. Junior defensive end Eli Nichols leads Duke with three of their 11 sacks. Cornerback John Talley is dangerous, with three picks.
Who's hurt: Duke tailbacks Justin Boyle, Cedric Dargan and Re'Quan Boyette all missed the Miami game with injuries. Boyle is expected back, but not Dargan. Receiver Ronnie Elliott (hand) will probably miss his third straight game. Top receiver Jomar Wright (knee) is out. Freshman DL Vince Oghobaase, a 6-6, 325-lb. monster and Roof's top recruit, is still out after knee surgery in March. Tech DE Eric Henderson (ankle) will miss his fourth straight game. Offensive linemen Brad Honeycutt and Nathan McManus were held out of some contact drills this week, but both are expected to start.
Xs and Os: Duke's schemes should look familiar to Tech fans, since both Roof and offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien are former Jacket coordinators. In all, seven former Tech assistants are on the Duke staff. O'Brien runs a multiple offense in the mold of mentor Ralph Friedgen, with a lot of motion and multiple sets. It can be great with a mature QB running it. Duke has a freshman, Zack Asack, at the helm since junior Mike Schneider (45.8 passing yards per game, 0 TDs, 4 INTs) was benched two games ago. Like Roof when he played linebacker for Tech, the Devils love to blitz, but they can't stop the run the way he did. The loss of Oghobaase and other injuries have them porous as ever, giving up 174 rushing yards a game. Pressure on quarterbacks and a good secondary has held opponents to 188 passing yards per game with six interceptions, but good teams don't bother to throw on them.
Key matchups: Tech field goal kicker Travis Bell vs. his foot. Bell hit 90 percent of his kicks his freshman year, but has missed his past five, including two chip shots inside the 30 last week that could have tied or won the game against N.C. State. Bell is still perfect on extra points. Tech linebacker Phillip Wheeler vs. Duke tight end Ben Patrick. The Jackets have been burnt on slant passes to zone seams, and Patrick has 12 catches for 71 yards, including a 17-yarder.