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X-Factor: Duke football needs big game from Deon Jackson to keep bowl hopes alive

<p>Deon Jackson only rushed for 2.5 yards per carry in last week's loss to Syracuse.</p>

Deon Jackson only rushed for 2.5 yards per carry in last week's loss to Syracuse.

Coming off a disastrous 49-6 home defeat at the hands of Syracuse, the Blue Devils need to snag a victory over Wake Forest in Winston-Salem this weekend to keep their hopes of going bowling alive. The Blue Zone gives you a key player to watch from each team in Duke’s final road matchup of the season:

Duke: Running back Deon Jackson

Jackson has struggled all season on the ground, as the junior is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has found the end zone only five times. Injuries on the offensive line and inconsistent play calling have both contributed to Jackson’s inability to break out in 2019. However, Wake Forest possesses a run defense that ranks just 72nd nationally in terms of yards allowed per game. Jackson must be able to take advantage of the Demon Deacons’ below average run defense in order to open up the rest of Duke’s offense.

Jackson having success in the run game on early downs will bring the Wake Forest safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing for the Blue Devils' screens and quick slants to flourish. Jackson should also receive more touches in the passing game, as the running back's speed and versatility pose matchup nightmares for slower linebackers in space.

Wake Forest: Wide receiver Kendall Hinton

Sage Surratt, one of the best receivers in all of college football, is officially out for the season. The Demon Deacons' second option, 6-foot-5 star receiver Scotty Washington, is week-to-week. Next on the depth chart is Hinton, who will need to step up his production against a Duke secondary that has performed well this season despite a host of injuries. With Wake Forest boasting the 23rd-ranked passing offense nationally, the Demon Deacons depend on the passing game to move the chains. Hinton's skill and tenacity are needed to offset the loss of Surratt and Washington, especially in the vertical passing game and the red zone.