Every week the Blue Zone gives you our can't-lose prop bets for the upcoming football game:
Duke (-19.5) vs. North Carolina A&T
North Carolina A&T, led by the dynamic Jalen Fowler at quarterback, may be coming off a 29-18 loss to Furman on opening weekend, but the Aggies are still the same program that has won five MEAC titles in its last six seasons. Fowler can use his legs on rollouts, zone reads and scrambles to keep the Duke defense honest, similar to how Charlotte signal caller Chris Reynolds torched the Blue Devils to the tune of 361 total yards and four total touchdowns. The redshirt junior quarterback will target wideout Ron Hunt—whose 6-foot-3 frame and ability to snag the ball in traffic could give the struggling Duke secondary issues—early and often Friday, so the Aggie offensive attack is no picnic.
All that put together, and I think North Carolina A&T has enough to cover this spread. Don’t get me wrong, I think Duke walks away with a victory in its home opener, but this seems like a lot of points considering the matchup at hand and recent history. For one, the Blue Devils are 4-8 against the spread since the start of last season, only marginally better than their 2-10 overall mark in that span. Plus, Duke did not even come close to covering as an underdog in some of those contests, particularly in its last four of 2020 against North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami and Florida State. The Blue Devils win, but the Aggies keep it interesting long enough to please their bettors.
Pick: NC A&T +19.5
This number is as good as it gets. Neither offense should have prolonged stretches of impotence Friday, with Duke relying on Mataeo Durant to get the job done and North Carolina A&T banking on the Fowler-Hunt connection. Durant is in all likelihood not going to replicate his 255-yard, three-score performance that he put up last week, but with the workload he should receive and the holes that the Blue Devil offensive line has been opening up, expect the senior to run wild again. Additionally, I can’t quite trust the Duke defense to get a ton of stops after the 49ers went 10-for-18 on third-down conversions last week and racked up 10.8 yards per pass attempt while possessing the ball for 35:19. Lock in the over.
Pick: Over 55.5
Over/under 28.5 pass attempts for Gunnar Holmberg
In a back-and-forth affair last Friday, Holmberg only attempted 29 passes, completing 20 for 228 yards. And while I like the Aggies to cover, Duke should be relatively in control thanks to the ground game. The North Carolina native has looked solid on short and intermediate throws, but don’t expect the offensive staff to reinvent the wheel after the Week One loss—Durant is who this offense revolves around. Holmberg likely does most of his aerial work early in the night, with Durant and Jordan Waters set to salt it away in the second half. Northwestern might be a game in which the graduate student is called on to be a hero, but not this week.
Pick: Under 28.5 pass attempts
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Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.