It’s time for the 2020 edition of the Tobacco Road football showdown. Duke and North Carolina face off coming in with very different mindsets. Duke had a commanding win over Charlotte last week, while the Tar Heels were upset by Virginia and have slowed down after their flaming hot start. The game could be greatly impacted by these players:
Duke: Running back Deon Jackson
After an extremely slow start to the season, Duke’s ground game has picked up the pace in a huge way. If we were to just look at last week’s averages, Duke would lead the nation in yards per carry with 8.1. North Carolina, on the other hand, just gave up 210 rush yards to Virginia on their way to a loss. Deon Jackson, Duke’s number one rusher, could have a huge role to play if Duke wants the same result. Jackson has looked explosive at times, breaking off big runs and grinding down defenses in order to open up the rest of the offense.
Over the last four games, Jackson has averaged 93 yards on the ground. He is less than 100 yards from last year’s rushing total, which has been a huge positive for the Blue Devils. While his season performance hasn’t directly resulted in Duke wins, his best performances have. In their only wins, Jackson has surpassed 100 yards rushing. If Jackson can carry over last week’s performance, expect that to be a positive indicator of Duke’s chances.
North Carolina: Wide receiver Dyami Brown
Neither team is strong defensively, so expect a bit of a shootout. For either of these teams to find success, their offenses will have to outperform the opponent. It is no surprise that Duke’s secondary has struggled greatly this season. They have had injuries resulting in the loss of their two starters, and the unit as a whole has not been exceptional. So, when you see a player like Brown, who has just come off of a 240-yard receiving game, there is no question that he could be a worry for the Blue Devils. For the Tar Heels, another strong offensive game will be necessary to pull out the win.
Brown has been one of Heisman candidate Sam Howell’s favorite targets all year. Coming against a team that struggles downfield, there is no doubt he will continue to play that role. Brown averages 18.3 yards per reception and could pose a huge threat for home run plays. If the Tar Heels are able to continue that trend, expect another high total in Brown’s yardage.
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