Following a convincing victory over Memphis, Duke surpassed expectations with a seven-point victory over Wake Forest last weekend. Coming off a victory against the Demon Deacons for the first time in twelve years, the Blue Devils are primed for a push into bowl contention.
The numbers place Duke in the middle of the ACC in most key offensive and defensive metrics. One crucial statistic in which Duke is ranked in the top three in the ACC is time of possession. The Blue Devils have averaged over their first five games around 32 minutes of possession per game, only 40 seconds less that the number one ACC team in the category, NC State.
That ability to maintain control of the football was a primary reason for Duke’s success early this season. Ball possession will be a deciding factor as the Blue Devils take on stronger opponents, increasing the need to keep the ball away from the ACC’s most prolific offenses.
The Blue Devils have consistently won this season due to their ability on offense to throw the football and score points. Duke is 24th in passing yards in the FBS with 304 yards per game. Even without quarterback Sean Renfree, who was injured during a critical point in the Wake Forest game, the Blue Devils passing attack was still strong under backup Anthony Boone. Receivers Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon each have 34 receptions, with Vernon accruing almost 100 more yards than Crowder over the season. The Duke offense has relied heavily on the pass to gain yardage-that much is clear.
One would expect that Duke would also rely on the passing attack to score a heavy majority of its points. However, the rushing game has scored nine of the Blue Devil touchdowns this season, while the pass game has scored 11. The numbers point to a more balanced offensive approach despite the inefficiency of the run game. Duke has used the passing game to gain yards and the run game to drive the ball into the end zone.
As the season progresses further, the Blue Devils will need to have consistent, prolific production from the pass game and strong red zone rushing from their backs in order to keep pace with the major powerhouses of the ACC. Duke will need to find a balance between the pass and rush, similar to what the team has shown so far, which will allow the offense to work more efficiently against solid defenses like that of Clemson or Florida State.