TJ Rahming will need to help Daniel Jones establish the passing game downfield to keep up with the Tar ...

X Factor: Duke football vs. North Carolina

During the quest to keep the Victory Bell in Durham, the Blue Devils will look to match their win total from last season. As always, there will be bad blood between the Tobacco Road rivals in Duke’s first road and ACC contest of the season.

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: Wide Receiver T.J. Rahming

Despite registering their third-highest scoring output in program history through three games with 135 total points, the Blue Devils’ offense looked sluggish at times in last week’s 34-20 victory against Baylor. Quarterback Daniel Jones did not throw for a touchdown, and his wide receivers did not help. But the unit will get a golden opportunity for redemption Saturday against a hurting Tar Heel defense that has let up more than 323 yards per game through the air, with junior wideout T.J. Rahming in the spotlight.

Like most players involved in the passing game, Rahming did not perform up to his standards against the Bears, as he caught just four passes for 28 yards while dropping a couple of passes. But Rahming has proven more than capable—especially against North Carolina, as he registered 100 yards on eight receptions in last season’s 28-27 upset victory—and is Jones’ favorite target on the outside. If Rahming can get going, especially as a downfield threat, it may be all downhill for the Tar Heels’ porous defense.

North Carolina: Quarterback Chazz Surratt

Redshirt freshman starting quarterback Chazz Surratt—who at one point was supposed to be a Blue Devil—has had little issue adjusting to the collegiate level so far. After beating out Louisiana State graduate transfer Brandon Harris as the chief signal-caller, Surratt led North Carolina to a 53-23 romp at Old Dominion for its first win of the season. Although Surratt did not start the Tar Heels’ first two contests, the Denver, N.C., native still played the majority of the snaps and has thrown for four touchdowns and rushed for three more to start off his 2017 season.

The dual-threat quarterback will face one of the nation’s statistically best defenses, though, and will have to find ways to maintain a steady ground attack against a Duke unit ranked first in the nation in rushing defense, allowing fewer than 48 yards per game. Although Surratt can do more than enough damage in the passing game, he does not have as many weapons with stars Ryan Switzer and Bug Howard’s eligibility exhausted and will have to create positive-yardage plays on first and second down to keep the Blue Devil defense guessing.


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