Thursday, June 08, 2006

Preseason Opponent Preview: Duke

Contrary to what you may think, Duke isn't one of the bottom five programs in I-A. Hell, I'm not so sure Duke is even one of the bottom ten programs in I-A. What is for sure is the Blue Devils don't expect to put many wins up this year, and will almost certainly retain their position as the perpetual bottom feeder in the ACC. The Blue Devils just can't seem to catch a break, as 2 (ish) year Head Coach Ted Roof has only 5 wins to show in 27 games, with only one victory (over I-AA VMI) last season. With a nonconference schedule featuring Alabama, a reenergized Vanderbilt, and Navy, Duke's only opportunity for victory may come Sept. 2nd against I-AA Richmond.

Where's the O-Line? Good Question...

Reason to be Afraid: Duke can't possibly get any worse in terms of production, as the Blue Devils averaged just 16.1 points a game (110th), with a measly five of those coming through the air. The defense, which gave up more then 30 points in seven of it's games, should get a boost with the return of tackle Vince Oghobaase and Defensive End Ayanga Okpokowuruk, both of whom went down with knee injuries last year. Oghobaase stands a hefty 6'6 325, and turned down offers from Miami and Oklahoma to play for Duke (well I don't know, maybe he value's the education?), and could become a factor against Navy's fullback. MLB Micahel Tauliili, believe it or not, could be an All-ACC performer, and looks to anchor Duke's hybrid 3-4, 4-3ish defensive combo. Then there is always the matter of the whole recruiting season. Are you sitting down for this? According to Athlon Magazine, Duke brought in the 36th Best Recruiting Class in the country, ahead of league rivals Boston College and Georgia Tech. As I said, things could not possibly be any worse.
Reason to Breath a Sigh of Relief: Guess what? Their worse...Well, maybe not, but notice how the only reason for Navy fans to be afraid comes from Duke's defensive perspective? Well, that's because Duke's Offense flat out sucks. While QB Zach Asack certainly learned from his freshman season (50%, 966 yds, 5TDs 8INTs), it would seem unthinkable for the Massachuseets product to have some kind of breakout. Behind Asack stands one scholarship QB, so if the young man goes down, Duke can forget even moving the ball in front of the line of scrimmage. While the running game isn't anything to mourn, the offensive line may once again be completely patchwork, with numerous freshmen and sophomores being plugged in for a game of "don't sack our quarterback." Duke's starting Left Tackle and Right Guard both transferred after last year, and considering Duke finished 116th on offense last year, Navy should have a big day defensively. For Navy, this game comes the week after the proverbial Notre Dame "nice try, but please try again next year" loss. The triple option attack should be clicking in full order, and the defense should be fully up to speed. With Duke's O-line issues and lack of any serious skill player threats, I would expect the Mids to have their best defensive game of the year. Even though Duke's defense should be better, Navy won't have to throw up 50 points on the scoreboard, and won't have to deal with a 4 week layover and exams like last year's nail biting win. I'm willing to bet Duke will also be fairly banged up, I don't know if Coach Roof is adverse to stretching or something, but Duke seems to sustain a number of injuries.

I'm sensing something of a pattern here...

Ok Seriously, Give us a Pick: The triple option struggles to get started, as Duke's big interior linemen shut down Ballard early. Yet Duke can't move the ball at all, and QB Zach Asack is picked off by David Mahoney. The Mids come alive in the second half, as the passing game and outside running game come in line. Reggie Campbell scores twice on long passes from QB Brian Hampton, as four touchdowns and a field goal is all Navy needs to down Duke 31-10.

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