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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Duke Blue Devils: A Statistical Preview

Things don’t look great for this weekend...

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Duke James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Another game and another week of hoping that Georgia Tech’s offense will finally take a turn for the better (and that the defense will just forget about last week). Unfortunately, the Yellow Jackets are in for a tough Duke defense this week. I’m also going to be expanding on these stats a little bit this week, adding in a comparison of explosiveness, scoring opportunity and down-by-down success rates. Big thanks to Coug Center’s Zane Murfitt for putting together these incredible tools that make my job a whole lot easier! And another thanks to Sports Source Analytics for providing the data used in these charts!

Georgia Tech Offense vs. Duke Defense

Data courtesy of Sports Source Analytics. Data visualization created by Zane Murfitt (Coug Center).

Oof. I’m not sure I have much else to add here. These stats paint a pretty clear picture that so far this season, Duke’s defense has been a whole lot better than Tech’s offense. The only thing on offense that Tech has been marginally okay at thus far has been yards per carry, which is right around the league average. Duke also happens to have stuffed 25 percent of carries by opposing teams (27th best in the NCAA). So far this season, Tech’s running game has been served pretty mixed results. It seems like the play either gets blown up at the line or Jordan Mason runs the ball for 20 or more yards with very little in between. This has to do with some growing pains along the offensive line that have now been magnified with season-ending injuries to Kenny Cooper and Jahaziel Lee.

There are some positives looking at these comparisons, believe it or not! The Yellow Jackets are in the top half of the league in both Explosive Rate (14 percent) and Red Zone TD percentage (56 percent). Just...don’t look at where Duke ranks in those!

Georgia Tech Offensive Explosiveness vs. Duke Defense

Data courtesy of Sports Source Analytics. Data visualization created by Zane Murfitt (Coug Center).

To expand on Tech’s explosive rate a little bit, we see that it is pretty heavily weighted by Tech’s rushing explosive rate (16 percent). That will probably be Tech’s best opportunity to sneak away from this game with a victory. The only problem is that Duke is almost equally good at limiting those kinds of plays (10 percent). With the Yellow Jackets’ diversity at running back, and the occasional Tobias Oliver package, Tech might be able to get off a few explosive runs, but the offensive line will really need to take a step up to handle this Blue Devils defense.

Something I’m interested to see is how Tech’s passing explosive rate continues to improve now that James Graham has all but solidified his job as the starting quarterback for the time being. We’ve seen Dave Patenaude allow Graham to get his opportunities in so far, as he has passed the ball nearly 50 times between the UNC and Temple games, albeit mostly unsuccessfully (43.75 completion percentage).

Georgia Tech Defense vs. Duke Offense

Data courtesy of Sports Source Analytics. Data visualization created by Zane Murfitt (Coug Center).

It’s a little easier to find some positives here, as Duke’s offense hasn’t been super impressive thus far. What’s crazy is that their offense is still pretty dang successful more often than not. A lot of their offensive numbers are weighed down from a poor explosive rate (10 percent), but that really just speaks to the consistency of the Blue Devils offense. They won’t break off a ton of big plays, but they also won’t be getting stuffed a lot either (14 percent stuff rate).

The biggest positive I can find here is that while Duke has been efficient in running the ball, they haven’t really been great at it. They do a good job of passing the ball around, but only one player is averaging more than 60 rushing yards a game: quarterback Quentin Harris. The whole offense really goes through Harris, for better or for worse.

One thing that Tech has going for it this week is that Duke’s receivers are not North Carolina’s receivers. UNC’s receivers were bigger and faster than Tech’s defensive backs and Sam Howell did a great job (for the most part) getting balls to them. I don’t expect Tech to run into that problem against Duke. Instead, I think the secondary reverts back to the norm of what we’ve seen this season.

Georgia Tech Defense vs. Duke Offensive Explosiveness

Data courtesy of Sports Source Analytics. Data visualization created by Zane Murfitt (Coug Center).

I already talked about how non-explosive Duke is on offense, so what I want to focus on here is the Blue Devils’ Scoring Opportunity TD percentage, or how many times they’ve scored a touchdown on drives inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. Duke has scored on 68 percent of those. That’s really good. Tech’s defense is going to need to find a way to keep the Blue Devils from finishing drives if they want to stay in this game.

One thing here that concerns me is that as Duke gets progressively better in the down-by-down success rate, Tech progressively gets worse, despite Tech’s defense being nice on second downs.


I want to feel good about this game. I want Tech to beat David Cutcliffe and Duke again like they used to. But the fact of the matter is that Duke has won four of its last five games against Georgia Tech, and unless the offense takes a serious turn in this game, I think it’s going to end up being five of the last six. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Are you able to glean any positives from the data?