While it may not be basketball season just quite yet, the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tarheels bring their rivalry to the gridiron for the Battle of the Victory Bell.
Last year’s matchup, held at Duke, was an instant classic 28-27 upset win for Duke, using a 21 point 2nd quarter to turn momentum. Daniel Jones had 240 yards passing, 110 rushing yards and three total touchdowns to outduel 2nd overall pick Mitchell Trubisky, who finished with 297 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2017, this game will be held in Chapel Hill, which should fare well for the Tarheels, who are 1-2 on the season. UNC’s lone win came last Saturday over lowly Old Dominion, 53-23. In that game, the Tarheels defense was finally able to get some stops for an offense that has looked strong through their first three games.
Chazz Surratt has done a nice job of not turning the ball over since he took over the offense from LSU-transfer Brandon Harris, and his offensive line has done a good job of protecting the freshman, only allowing three sacks. His main weapon has been Austin Proehl, a senior who was somewhat buried in the depth chart in his first three seasons with the Tarheels, but has 15 catches for 223 yards and touchdown.
Unfortunately for Surratt, Proehl and the rest of the offense, the defense has been Swiss cheese through the first three weeks, allowing almost 500 yards per game and with 323 of that being through the air. The Tarheels’ pass rush has been pretty much non-existent, with just 5.5 sacks as a team. That lack of pass rush has left the secondary exposed, and quarterbacks, especially Lamar Jackson have eaten them up because of it.
As for Duke, they come into this game 3-0, with victory over two power-five teams Baylor and Northwestern.
Duke is sniffing the top-25, and it’s mainly due to their strong defensive start. They have yet to give up more than 20 points in a game, and held what many thought would be a much improved Northwestern offense to just 17 points and 191 yards. Duke has been unbelievable against the run, allowing just 47 yards a contest on the ground. Duke was able to hold Northwestern running back Josh Jackson to just 18 yards on seven carries. Jackson is considered one of the best running backs in the nation.
On the offensive side of the ball, Duke has been explosive on offense, using their overall team speed to create big plays. Through three games, Daniel Jones seems to have taken a step forward in development, while still being one of the best dangerous quarterbacks in the country when he breaks contain. T.J. Rahming is back and as dangerous as ever in the open field.
Duke is a team on the rise and if they win this game will probably be ranked within the top-25, depending on what else happens around the country. This could be a statement win for Duke against their biggest rival at their own place. However, Duke could look at this game as a potential trap game, with Miami coming to town next week. UNC needs a win to keep their bowl game hopes alive, as the schedule doesn’t get much easier down the road.
However, Duke’s defense will be able to make enough plays to separate themselves from North Carolina, who wont be able to hang with Duke’s loaded offense. Duke wins, 45-27.
Cover Photo via News And Observer