Duke football is as good as its rushing attack, and the stats show it. Much has been made of the Blue Devil inefficiency in the running game this season. The criticism holds weight considering that Duke is now the 100th ranked team in rushing yards per game in the FBS, averaging 123.9 yards per game. Looking deeper into the splits, it becomes obvious that the Blue Devils rely so heavily on their rushing attack. Though the offense may have a more pass-oriented approach, the ground game dictates Duke’s success on the field.
In wins this season, Duke has found success on the ground. In six wins, the Blue Devils have scored twelve touchdowns and carried the ball 228 times. In Duke’s three losses, the rushing attack has scored merely two touchdowns on 85 carries. The numbers point to the fact that the Blue Devils run the ball more in games when they are able to control the line of scrimmage, in most cases against opponents that are less talented than Duke.
Against BCS and AP ranked teams, the Blue Devils average 65 yards on the ground with two touchdowns in two games so far this season. However, during the team’s wins, which came against lesser competition, Duke has averaged 160.5 yards per game with twelve touchdowns over the six games. The numbers point to the importance of Duke establishing its running attack in each game in order to succeed. Clemson will prove a tough test for this battered Blue Devil team, but the key will be whether Duke can run the ball effectively against the Tiger defense. If the Blue Devils manage to do so, the chances they pull out a victory are much greater.
Another factor that will play into Duke’s success on the field will be home field advantage. At the beginning of the season, it was hard to say that the Blue Devils had any advantage playing at home with limited support from the student body at most games. However, the thrilling win against North Carolina and the potential for a bowl game has roused support from students and fans.
Statistically, the Blue Devils run the ball better when they play at home. In five home games, Duke averaged 168 yards on the ground and has racked up eight touchdowns over 192 carries. The Blue Devils remain undefeated at home and much of that success is correlated with the effectiveness of the run game. During their four away games, only one of which was a victory, Duke ran the ball 121 times and averaged 68.8 yards per game with six touchdowns.
The variation in run production between home and away games along with the discrepancy between facing top caliber teams and lesser programs illustrates statistically the value of playing on a home field against a weaker opponent. Clemson is a very strong football team and Duke will need to establish the run if the team has any hope of winning. However, as the stats show, if the Blue Devils can rush well, as they have at home this season, the outlook for this week’s game remains bright.