Third and goal: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

Third and goal: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

Duke heads to Atlanta still searching for its first ACC win of the season Saturday at noon against Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils likely need a victory to stay in the hunt for a fifth straight bowl appearance, but they will need to contain the Yellow Jackets' explosive triple-option offense. The Blue Zone breaks down three keys to Saturday's matchup:

Limit the Yellow Jackets' flight

In Paul Johnson's nine seasons at the helm of Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jacket offense has been known for its triple-option attack. With quarterback Justin Thomas and a slew of dangerous options in the backfield, Duke can certainly expect Georgia Tech to pose a threat its ground game. 

Thanks to the guidance of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, though, the Blue Devils have proven themselves capable of stopping run-based offenses dead in their tracks. Last year in Durham, Duke held the Yellow Jackets to 2.9 yards per carry on 60 rush attempts—but Georgia Tech still managed to completed six passes of 10 yards or more. 

Chunk plays have hurt the Blue Devils throughout this season, and although the Yellow Jackets only attempt an average of 13.7 passes per game, they are making the most of their downfield strikes. Thomas is averaging nearly 16 yards per completion and has thrown for four touchdowns through seven games. Redshirt senior Ricky Jeune, Georgia Tech's leading wideout, stand 6-foot-3 and will challenge a vulnerable Duke secondary that has struggled in 2016.  Read more »

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. Virginia State

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. Virginia State

The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Hank Tucker break down the main storylines surrounding the Blue Devils ahead of Duke's first exhibition game of the season Friday at 7 p.m. against Virginia State. Freshmen Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles will both be sidelined with injuries, but newly minted preseason ACC Player of the Year Grayson Allen will lead the Blue Devils in the backcourt. Duke was also picked to finish first in the ACC at the conference's media day Wednesday.

Five-star recruit Kevin Knox will be in attendance at Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday during his official visit to Durham. The Class of 2017 swingman is currently expected to sign with the Blue Devils, according to 247sports' Crystal Ball.

Chronicle pregame: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

Chronicle pregame: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

With a well-rested Duke team coming off its bye week set to travel to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech Saturday at noon, The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar, Mitchell Gladstone and Ben Feder discussed the critical ACC matchup for the Blue Devils. Duke won its first game against a triple-option offense this year with a 13-6 victory against Army, but the Yellow Jackets are more explosive with several dangerous offensive threats. There is less than a month left in the regular season, and the outcome of Saturday's contest could make or break the Blue Devils' bowl chances.

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Virginia State

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Virginia State

Duke will take the floor for its first exhibition game Friday night against Virginia State without its top two freshmen Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, who are both sidelined with injuries. But the Blue Devils should still make quick work of the Trojans and be able to experiment with different lineups. Here are three keys to Friday's matchup:

Aggressive defense

One of Duke’s main focal points this season will be improvement on defense, which was 86th in the nation last year in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings. Against Virginia State, the Blue Devils will have their first opportunity to test how the defense has improved in the offseason. Duke will have to contain guard Kevin Williams and forward Elijah Moore, who finished first and second for the Trojans last year in scoring. 

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has said the Blue Devils will return to playing more full-court man-to-man defense than they have in recent years, and freshman Frank Jackson will need to translate his athleticism into being a shut-down defender on the ball this year—he will have his first opportunity to do so against Virginia State. A particular concern last year was junior Grayson Allen’s defense—this season, he will have to improve on his 0.7 defensive plus/minus, which measures how many points a player earned or lost for his team per 100 defensive possessions and was among the lowest on the team last year. Read more »

X Factor: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

X Factor: Duke football vs. Georgia Tech

Duke will retake the field for the first time in 15 days Saturday against Georgia Tech at noon in Atlanta. A win for the Blue Devils Saturday would be critical for their fragile hopes of making a bowl against an unspectacular Yellow Jacket team that has started the year 1-3 in the ACC. Every week throughout the football season, the Blue Zone will break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest:

Duke: Safety Alonzo Saxton II

A season-ending knee injury to All-ACC defensive back DeVon Edwards has opened the door for Saxton at the safety position. In the three games prior to Edwards’ injury against Notre Dame Sept. 24, Saxton had six total tackles. But the Columbus, Ohio, native has made the most of his expanded role, and has now recorded 18 total tackles in his last three games as he continues to produce on the defensive end.

Saxton will need to continue his recent success in order to contain quarterback Justin Thomas and Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense. The Yellow Jackets average more than 230 rushing yards per contest and boast multiple offensive threats in their backfield. Saxton was a quintessential factor in Duke’s ability to limit the nation’s highest scoring offense in Louisville Oct. 14. Saxton’s nine total tackles and five solo tackles were both season highs, and he recovered a fumble for the second straight game. If Saxton can keep elevating his game, the Blue Devils will be in position to claim their first ACC victory of the season. Read more »

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Virginia State

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Virginia State

Duke’s will face its first opponent of the season Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium with an exhibition game against Virginia State. This is one of the most highly anticipated seasons ever for the Blue Devils, but it has yet to be seen how this talented Duke team will perform against real competition. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:

Duke: forward Amile Jefferson

Graduate student Amile Jefferson is set to return to action for the first time since going down last December with a broken foot after the NCAA granted him a medical redshirt to return for his fifth season as a Blue Devil. Before his injury last year, Jefferson was averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and 10.3 rebounds, and his presence was sorely missed by a team that lacked depth, interior defense and senior leadership.

This year, Duke is not as desperate for Jefferson’s services, as freshmen Harry Giles, Marques Bolden and Javin Delaurier and sophomore Chase Jeter can man the frontcourt. But with Giles set to miss the first few weeks of the season, Jefferson will likely be Duke’s top option inside. After an injury scare at the Blue Devils' Countdown to Craziness, though, it is no guarantee that the Philadelphia native will be able to stay healthy. If he can stay on the floor playing heavy minutes, Jefferson will certainly be a difference-maker for Duke. Read more »

Stock watch: Countdown to Craziness entertainment trending up

Stock watch: Countdown to Craziness entertainment trending up

The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has rung again, meaning it's time to take a look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. Each week, the Blue Zone will look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.

Bull Market—Trending Up

Countdown to Craziness entertainment: Even before Saturday night's 20-minute scrimmage got underway, the Blue Devils impressed the Cameron Crazies in their annual showcase. The excitement started in pregame introductions, with freshman guard Frank Jackson's dance moves and sophomore Chase Jeter's water bottle flip—which may or may not have gotten some help from a doctored bottle—dazzling the crowd. Once Duke got ready for its intrasquad scrimmage, Grayson Allen had a surprise for fans, debuting a pair of shorter shorts ahead of his junior campaign. 

Many of the highlights from the night can be viewed in the video below—the Blue Devils open exhibition play against Virginia State Friday at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Read more »

This week in Duke history: Female kicker sues after being cut from Duke football team

Most college sports are segregated by gender—men’s and women's soccer, men’s and women's basketball, etc.

But football is not one of them, and with Duke’s kicking troubles over the years, it made sense that at some point a woman might give a male kicker a run for his money.

In the fall of 1995, then-sophomore Heather Sue Mercer vied for a spot on the Duke football team as a kicker. She began her efforts the previous year, but was told by head coach Fred Goldsmith that she would need to get better.

Perhaps the climax of her career came on April 15, 1995, in the team’s annual spring game. Starting kicker Tom Cochran was sidelined, and Mercer came on in the closing seconds for a chance to win the game. Read more »

Thoughts on the AP poll: Week 8

Three top-25 matchups and two big upsets headlined an exciting week of college football.

Alabama outlasts Aggies

In a matchup of the last two unbeaten teams in the SEC, Alabama continued to pad its College Football Playoff résumé. Although the then-No. 6 Aggies led the No. 1 Crimson Tide midway through the third quarter, momentum shifted following a four-yard touchdown pass by Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts that gave the Crimson Tide a 20-14 lead the team never relinquished. Two drives later, Alabama’s star defensive end Jonathan Allen returned a fumble for a touchdown, deflating the Aggies and effectively eliminating any chance at a comeback. The Crimson Tide added another touchdown in the fourth quarter to put an exclamation point on the 33-14 win at home. 

With another solid win over a ranked opponent, Alabama solidified its case as the best team in college football. But with two ranked opponents remaining on the schedule in bitter rivals LSU and Auburn, the Crimson Tide cannot afford to take a break before the conference championship. On the other hand, Texas A&M dropped to No. 9 in the polls, with hopes of a conference championship and a playoff appearance dashed unless Alabama drops two of its next four games. Read more »