Duke takes on Baylor at 12:30 pm this Saturday in the Devils’ third consecutive home game (they travel to Chapel Hill next week for a very early installment of the rivalry).
Duke is sitting on two blowout wins over one cupcake and one quality program. The defense looked particularly strong in both games, as did the run game.
Baylor, on the other hand, has dropped two close losses to teams over which they were favored. The first was a 48-45 shootout with Liberty, in which the Bears gave up 447 passing yards and 31 first downs. The second game featured improved defense but worse offense, as they lost to UT San Antonio 17-10. This time it was the run defense that was porous, as they allowed 220 yards on the ground. Both games were home games, and now a reeling Baylor team has to go on the road to a hot Duke team.
It’s still early in the season, so neither team has really yet developed an identity. However, there are some trends we can identify in Baylor’s previous performances.
First, Baylor went a combined 6 for 24 on third downs. Getting stops on third down was key to Duke’s victory over Northwestern.
Second, Baylor trailed in time of possession in both games by about the same margin: 38 minutes to 21. Duke split time of possession evenly with NCCU but held the ball for over 40 minutes against Northwestern. So the early trends favor Duke in this matchup, as does the location of the game. The oddsmakers favor Duke by two touchdowns.
According to Baylor’s SBNation page, the team is featuring nine new starters on the depth chart: a new QB, LG, C, DE, DT, rush end, free safety, strong safety, corner, and defensive end. Previous starting quarterback Anu Solomon went 10/26 for 121 yards in their most recent game so the move makes sense; he is also in concussion protocol which means a true freshman will be the backup to Zach Smith. Smith has thrown only two passes this year, and one was an interception, so there’s a small sample size.
As far as this writer can tell, the Duke depth chart remains unchanged from last week. To be able to take a three-game win streak and a healthy roster into Chapel Hill next week would be a great way to start the season, and it’s looking more and more likely.
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