There was a time when Duke wasn’t much more than a speed bump on the path to the ACC title for most teams. Since 1990 Georgia Tech is 23-7 against the Blue Devils but unfortunately five of those seven loses came in the last six years. The improvement came with Coach Cutcliffe being an excellent developer in undervalued players. His resume of developing quarterbacks includes the Manning brothers and even coached Eli Manning’s replacement in current NY Giants, Daniel Jones. As long as Cutcliffe hangs around Duke will never be an easy out like it once was.
Series Record: Georgia Tech leads 51-35-1
Last Meeting: Duke won 41-23
2019 Season Review
2019 Record: 5-7 (3-5)
If Georgia Tech wasn’t in the midst of a rebuild last year it would have been the perfect time to take advantage of one the more underwhelming Duke teams in recent years. Duke wasn’t really good at any phase of their game. Some spots were average at times but it usually came against lesser opponents. Duke QB Quentin Harris only threw for more than 200 yards in three games and was the only player to break 100 yards rushing in a game where he did it twice. Only one receiver broke 50 receptions and a lot of the reason was due to Duke relying on the running game to fit Harris’s style of play.
With the exception of agreeing to play Alabama, Duke can hardly be faulted for getting manhandled in the Chic-Fil-A kickoff game. Duke got rolling on both sides of the ball in wins against NC A&T and Middle Tennessee before dismantling Virginia Tech 45-10. It seemed to take all the energy Duke had in that win because it would finish 2-6 with the wins coming against Georgia Tech and Miami.
Duke changed it offensive style last year to fit Quentin Harris who was the only QB with experience at the college level. They shouldn’t have to do that this year with Clemson transfer, Chase Brice. While Brice has been primarily a back up at Clemson he has come in at key moments and showed great poise and ability. He will take a lot of pressure off the line and not steal so many carriers from the running backs. The offensive unit as a whole last year was very young and sees most of their starters returning. Deon Jackson should be the feature running back who gained 641 yards last season. His average was 3.7 a carry but the line will receive some help from Stanford transfer Devery Hamilton. The two leading receivers, Jalon Calhoun and Noah Gray, will return to give the receivers an experienced group.
Duke did well in its pass rush with 35 sacks last year but struggled to generate turnovers with a -11 turnover margin and allowed 29 points per game. They do return most of their starters, but its their linebackers that will take a hard hit with leading tackler Koby Quansah graduating and starter Brandon Hill opting out of the season. Another weakness is the interior of the defensive line is inexperienced and undersized. It will be up to a secondary led by Marquis Waters to give the front seven time to pressure the quarterback.
Kicker AJ Reed made 15 goals on 18 attempts last year with a long of 51 and Punter Austin Parker averaged 45.7 yards on punts. Duke will have to replace both this year with little experience behind them. They should be fine in the return game with Damond Philyaw-Johnson back who returned two touchdowns against Wake Forest.
Duke has progressively allowed more point per game over the years despite allowing less yards while the offense has regressed in both points and yards. If the offense can find its footing again then Duke should fare a little better this year than last. Georgia Tech is going to have more playmakers on their team this year when they meet in Atlanta so this should be a Yellow Jacket win: 30-17