Georgia Tech vs Duke: Previewing the Blue Devils defense

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 31: The Alabama Crimson Tide offense faces off against the Duke Blue Devils defense in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 31: The Alabama Crimson Tide offense faces off against the Duke Blue Devils defense in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets offense will have a tough challenge this week against a high quality Duke defense.

Georgia Tech’s offense has struggled in year one of the Geoff Collins era but showed some life last week against the North Carolina Tar Heels, scoring a season high 22-points. This week, they’ll go up against one a quality defense in the Duke Blue Devils. The Blue Devils have been strong for most of the season but does present a few possible areas for the Jackets to exploit on Saturday.

Pass Defense:

Georgia Tech’s passing offense this season has been rough and on Saturday, they’ll have a tough matchup against a quality Duke secondary. Opposing offenses have thrown for an average of 213.4 yards per game. The secondary did have two tough performances against Alabama and Pittsburgh, allowing 367 and 268 yards respectively, but was strong in the three games in between allowing a total of 432-yards against North Carolina AT&T, Middle Tennessee State, and Virginia Tech.

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For the season, opposing quarterbacks are completing 60.3% of their passes against Duke but with an average of 6.83 yards per attempt, the Blue Devils are keeping the ball in front of them when it comes to passing. They’ll give up a ton of first downs via passing at times but they can also keep opposing passing attacks completely quiet. Twice this season, they’ve kept teams to three passing first downs in a game.

The Duke secondary hasn’t created a ton of turnovers so far this season, however, with just three team interceptions on the season. They have though totaled 15 pass deflections through five games, an average of three per game.

The Jackets offense hasn’t showed a ton in the passing game but with James Graham at quarterback, they at least have a chance to move the ball through the air. Last week, Graham had his ups-and-downs against North Carolina in his first career start, it will be intriguing to see how he handles a better defense in career start No.2

Rush Defense:

The Duke rush defense for most of the season has been vulnerable to giving up quite a bit of yards. Opposing offenses have rushed for 130+ yards in four of five games this season before they shut down Pittsburgh last weekend. That being said, Duke’s average of 125.8 yards allowed per game on the ground is a lot to do with the volume opposing teams are running the ball. Opposing offenses have ran the ball 30+ times in four of five games and 40+ times in two of five games. Those opposing offenses have ran the ball a total 181 times against the Blue Devils for 629-yards, a 3.5 yards per carry average. Opponents are also averaging just 7.5 first downs on runs per game this season.

Jordan Mason will be one of the better running backs the Blue Devils have faced this season which will create an interesting matchup to watch on Saturday. If the Jackets can run the ball against Duke, they’ll have a chance to make some noise on offense, if not, it could be a very long day for Dave Patenuade’s offense.

Standouts to Watch:

LB Koby Quansah: Quansah has been great this season for the Blue Devils through five games. In those five games, he has 48 tackles including 4.5 tackles, 1.5 sack, and one pass deflected. He’s a do-it-all player for the Blue Devils to say the least. That being said, Quansah is playing a bit banged up as he has a broken thumb but he’s playing through the injury. Last week against Pitt, Quansah had one of his best games of the season with 11 tackles including one tackle for a loss.

S Dylan Singleton: Safties are sometimes the most impactful players on defenses and that holds true with Singleton. The senior safety has recorded 43 tackles this season and has found himself in the backfield quite a bit for a member as the secondary, recording four tackles for a loss including one sack. He’s also recorded two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery on the season.

DE Tre Hornbuckle: Hornbuckle hasn’t racked up the tackles as Quansah and Singleton has but he’s still done a great job on the Blue Devils defensive line this season. Hornbuckle has 18 tackles on the season including seven last week against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Hornbuckle, however, has found his way into the backfield more than others with 3.0 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks for a loss.


Overall, the Blue Devils defense this season has been rather strong and was a major part of their three-game winning streak earlier this season. The Blue Devils are viable to give up yards on the ground which could benefit the Yellow Jackets but the offensive line will need to step it up. Last week, Pittsburgh’s offensive line wasn’t able to stand up to the challenge and ended up only rushing for 69 yards on 35 carries. It’s safe to say, the Blue Devils defense has enough power to shut down the Yellow Jackets on Saturday if the Jackets come out as they have in the first half so far this season.

We’ve seen Duke be a team in the past that was able to stifle Paul Johnson’s triple-option and find ways to pull out victories, on Saturday, the Blue Devils defense could make it tough for the Yellow Jackets to even make the conference showdown a close game.