Each week at FTRS we will try and have an opponent blogger answer some questions for us regarding their team. This week Mike Kline from Duke Sports Blog was kind enough to answer our questions. Head over to their site to see what Duke is up to this week. Make sure you follow him on Twitter! @DukeBlogMKline
FTRS: Brandon Connette came in and performed admirably. Are you worried about a drop-off at the QB position at all, or does Connette have things on lock?
DSB: Honestly I am a bit worried personally. The Duke coaches and players will tell you otherwise and they have a lot of confidence in Connette, so my opinion doesn't matter. However, never having started a game and in the spring he was eyed as the third-option at quarterback, there is still a little bit of the unknown with Connette. He is an immensely tough competitor and will give an excellent effort but I worry if the Georgia Tech game may be a bit too much to ask. He is going to have to protect the ball and sustain some drives to keep Duke's defense off the field for those famously gruelingly long Georgia Tech drives.
FTRS: What was the bowl experience like last year? I think all of your ACC buddies were excited to see Duke finally break through and get a bowl invite.
DSB: It was an incredible experience for the team and served as a real wake-up call to the Blue Devil fan base. It showed to fans, rivals and, most importantly recruits, that Duke can be a viable football program. Duke really was in a position and you could certainly argue, should have won the game but a few too many mistakes doomed them. The loss, however, motivated the players more than ever to get back to work and get back to a bowl and that is refreshing for a program that hadn't been to on in 18 years and has never been to back to back bowls.
FTRS: With All-Duke passer Sean Renfree gone to the NFL what can we expect from the Duke Offense this year? Are the changes something Coach Cutcliffe has been wanting to impement for a long time, or has personnel dictated any changes?
DSB: I think the changes are related to personnel but I think that Cutcliffe has been a versatile guy who isn't afraid to evolve his schemes. He has been recruiting more of a read-option style, athletic quarterback and has really gotten away from the straight up pocket passer. Boone represents more of that kind of quarterback and that is what I expect to see going forward in Cutcliffe's tenure. I think Duke has also dedicated a lot of effort to becoming a better rushing team and early results have been good, though the level of competition is getting better and will challenge that improvement.
FTRS: What do Duke fans expect from their program from here on out? Has the fan base grown since Cutcliffe took over?
DSB: Honestly, I'm not really sure what expectations that Duke fans have at this point. They are still very much in a wait and see pattern. They love Cut and the interest in the program hasn't been higher since probably Steve Spurrier was coaching, but there is some fear, I think, to commit to football until the wins become more consistent. I think not really having a "signature win," though that win over North Carolina last year is very close, hurts. I think the hope is they will continue to get better and if they can consistently win and can begin to string together a few winning seasons I think the fans will come and stick around.
FTRS: All we have heard about this week from the national outlets are about the QB situation, who else should Tech fans look out for from the Blue Devil's offense this week?
DSB: Duke is still searching for a receiver other than Jamison Crowder to be a go-to guy and with a new quarterback that may become an even more difficult task. As I mentioned before, the running game has become more of a focal point with three to four guys getting carriers Jela Duncan is the best of the Duke backs, however Juwan Howard and Josh Snead can provide some power and speed. The question is can Duke's line consistently open holes for them and can they continue to hold on to the ball. Duke will need to hope they can run the ball effectively against Georgia Tech to take pressure off Connette.
FTRS: How is Duke preparing the stop Georgia Tech's spread option attack? I'll warn you now, Tech fans are very excited and confident about our offense this year, and expect it to improve on last year's top-25 performance.
DSB: Duke typically does a lot of prep work in advance of this week. At one point Cutcliffe said he had his show team offense cut blocking the starting defensive front for an entire week to get them somewhat acclimated to the blocking scheme. He and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles have also really focused on assignment football and this is probably Duke's best defensive front since Cutcliffe got to Durham. However, preparing for CPJ's version of the spread option is never easy and not something you do in a week. The prep work is there but you can never simulate game speed against the type of football players the Yellow Jackets will have with a show team offense.
FTRS: For those of us traveling to Duke this weekend, where are the tailgating spots we should check out? What about dinner and nightlife after the game?
DSB: Durham has really grown and their are some fabulous dining options from BBQ to even a pretty good Chicken and Waffles place in downtown Durham called Dames. The hipster crowds love downtown Durham. Lots of eclectic eateries and bars. Satisfactions is an oldie but goodie at Brightleaf Square. The Federal is also one of my favorite old hangouts as well. And of course if you are more cheap no frills there is always Hog Heaven which isn't bad Eastern NC BBQ at a cheap price.
FTRS: Finally, what is your prediction for the game this week?
DSB: Every year I look at the Georgia Tech game and think, maybe this will be the year Duke finally gets CPJ. Duke just hasn't had much luck with him, even dating back to his time at Navy as offensive coordinator and head coach. Duke has gotten much better on the defensive end but Johnson just keeps on cranking out one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the country and now he has a heck of a quarterback in Vlad Lee who can throw the ball as well as run it. I see a lot of problems potentially with that offense. I think Duke can score but I'd be a lot more optimistic if they weren't having to break in a new quarterback for this game. I think this could follow a lot of other recent games and be close for a while but the Yellow Jackets will keep Duke at arms length. Ultimately I think Tech wins by at least two scores, possibly more.