After suffering a 48-14 drubbing at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers just seven days gone, the Duke Blue Devils will look to rebound against an up-and-down North Carolina squad. Here are the Blue Zone’s three keys to the Saturday matinee:
1. Retrograde amnesia
Duke needs to forget about last week. Every part of it. The Tar Heels—sitting at 3-4 on the year—will not come out packing the same punch as the 5-2 Cavaliers, despite North Carolina threatening now-No. 4 Clemson right until the final buzzer sounded. Quentin Harris needs to forget about the 88 passing yards and two picks, special teams would do well to forget about Virginia's kick return touchdown directly after the Blue Devils finally started showing life on offense and the defense needs a hard reset after allowing five rushing touchdowns to the likes of Bryce Perkins and Wayne Taulapapa.
It will do the Blue Devils no good to have these events in their mind when they take the field at 4 p.m. this Saturday, and it would be best to discard the memories if they hope to rebound against their rivals.
2. Quentin Harris’s dual identity
For Duke to emerge victorious from Kenan Memorial Stadium with a W under its belt, Quentin Harris will need to be on top form. We have seen two versions of the redshirt senior quarterback this season, and this game rides on which one shows up.
Will the Blue Devil faithful see the Georgia Tech, Middle Tennessee and North Carolina A&T Harris? Or will they see the Virginia and Pittsburgh version?
Head coach David Cutcliffe will hope to see his quarterback lead the charge taking on their rivals, avoiding turnovers and finding members of the strong receiving corps over and over while threatening on the ground as well, keeping the Tar Heel defense guessing in a game primed to be a high scoring affair.
3. Win the turnover battle
You need two hands to count the number of times that the Tar Heel offense has coughed up the pigskin, but only just. Between quarterback Sam Howell only throwing three interceptions and the team losing a mere three fumbles on the year, North Carolina has run its offense efficiently and effectively. On the contrary, Duke has lost eight possessions through the air, and another eight on the ground. The Blue Devils will need to protect the ball themselves, and force turnovers from a stubborn Tar Heel squad to win Saturday afternoon.
Fourth and goal: Keep an eye on the kicking matchup. A.J. Reed’s right foot has been absolute money for Duke, making all eight of his attempts on the season, whereas North Carolina kicker Noah Ruggles is only 10-of-16 in the fall campaign.
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