Duke is looking to extend its three-game win streak Saturday at noon when it travels to Acrisure Stadium to play Pittsburgh. The Blue Zone has three keys for the Blue Devils to secure their eighth win:
Limit the run game
Pittsburgh's main offensive weapon this year has been running back Israel Abanikanda, who is averaging 134.1 rushing yards per game. The junior had one especially monstrous game this season, racking up an absurd 320 yards on the ground against Virginia Tech, breaking Tony Dorsett’s program record set in 1975. Duke, on the other hand, has been relatively strong defending the run. The Blue Devils have allowed 121.8 rushing yards per game, and it will be up to head coach Mike Elko’s scheme and the Duke defensive line to keep Abanikanda in check, lest the Blue Devils risk getting trampled by the rusher with the sixth-most yards per game in FBS.
Duke floundered in the first quarter of its matchup against Virginia Tech, giving up an early touchdown on the second play of the Hokies’ first drive, and failing to put up anything but a field goal until the second quarter. The Panthers, on the other hand, started very strongly in the opening minutes of their game against Virginia. In just the first 16 seconds, the Pittsburgh secondary picked off Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong twice on consecutive plays, bringing both into the end zone and giving the Panthers a 14-point cushion that helped carry them to a 37-7 win against the Cavaliers. The Blue Devils will want to keep Pittsburgh in check early and open the game strong to give themselves some breathing room later.
Attack the ball
Duke has played its best football in games where it forces turnovers, and it should aim to get back to that style of defense after struggling to get takeaways the past two games. The Blue Devils racked up a program-record eight forced turnovers against Miami and at one point led the ACC in turnover differential, but could not force any turnovers against Boston College and had just one interception against Virginia Tech. Duke came away with wins in both of those contests, but if the Blue Devils can take the ball out of Pittsburgh’s hands and control the flow of the game, it will be that much easier for Duke to win and reinforce its second-place position in the Coastal Division.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.