Boston College Eagles vs. Duke Blue Devils
Saturday, September 19 at Noon ET at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium in North Carolina
Early Season Trend
In the past few years, a pattern of strong early-season starts and late-season deterioration for Duke has emerged. Last year, after getting blown out by Alabama, they covered the spread in their next three games. In 2018, they covered their first three games and in 2017 they covered their first four games.
After covering against the Irish in Week 1, they look to prolong this trend.
The Blue Devils come into this game with some automatic advantages. They already have a game under their belt. In contrast, Boston College may be rusty playing its first game. Plus, the Eagles abound with new coaches plus a new quarterback. Duke opened up as -6 favorites amongst the top sportsbooks.
Former Clemson quarterback Chase Brice was named Duke’s starter eight days before the team’s season opener. Certainly, Brice had shaky moments, which were foreseeable in his first start both of the season and with his team.
But he developed positive chemistry with his pass-catchers, locating seven different ones over the course of the game. So-called experts have dealt Blue Devil receivers heavy criticism. I find them, especially after their efforts against Notre Dame, to be underrated. One distinguishing aspect is their physicality. A good example here is Eli Pancol, who used his size at 6-3 to accumulate 78 receiving yards.
Brice vs. Boston College Pass Defense
Besides adjusting to a new defensive coordinator and having to suffer a conceptual learning curve, the Eagles’ pass defense has a significant personnel problem. While they have some returning experience, this might not be a good thing for a unit that ranked 127th in opposing pass yards per game.
With some chemistry already developed, Brice is going to attack Boston College’s secondary with the verticality that Coach Cutcliffe wants to inject into his offense along with the physicality of Duke receivers.
Boston College’s Overrated Ground Game
I will be the first to admit: the impact of running backs is generally overstated. But losing a stud like A.J. Dillon — who was taken by Green Bay in the second round of the NFL Draft-- is something that the Eagles will feel because he was uniquely good.
While the offensive line returns significant experience, some position changes will hurt the unit’s overall chemistry. So anybody who touts the Eagles’ run-blockers while only mentioning how many starters they return is really being deceptive.
The fact that BC’s rush attack is overrated is critical because the Eagles bring in a new transfer quarterback who, like Brice did last Saturday, will have to deal with rust and lack of chemistry. With a new offensive coordinator and head coach in place, Boston College will want to simplify things and keep things on the ground. But the Eagles’ overrated ground attack can only do so much by itself.
Duke Pass Defense
Duke’s assortment of three returning high-level edge rushers will help persuade the Eagles to stick to the run. One key figure is Chris Rumph, who accumulated 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble last year.
Also, the Blue Devils benefit from having paid special attention to their secondary. There, they feature former All-American Mark Gilbert and plenty of quality depth alongside him in the form of multiple All-ACC and returning starters.
Their secondary will ensure the limited quality of Boston College’s pass threat.
More experienced, better adjusted, and better-seasoned Duke will cover another early-season game with a superior pass attack and a secondary and pass rush that keep the Eagles’ offense limited and one-dimensional.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack
Saturday, September 19, 2020 at Carter-Finley Stadium, North Carolina
Wrong Team Favored
Wake Forest has the advantages of having already played a game plus continuity in its coaching staff. NC State will play its first game of the season and will do so with a new offensive coordinator who has come from Texas and a new defensive coordinator who was promoted from within.
Competence at Quarterback
Another advantage for the Demon Deacons is the fact that they have a serviceable quarterback in Sam Hartman at their disposal. In 2018, Hartman started for Wake Forest and regularly achieved decent numbers against lower-quality pass defenses. Minimal coverage ability is still evident in a Wolfpack secondary that ranked 111th in opposing pass yards per game last season. Hartman also keeps defenses honest with his legs.
As I wrote in my Wake Forest vs. NC State Article, I like the "under" because Wake Forest doesn’t have the quality at wide receiver (or quarterback, for that matter) to blow the Wolfpack away.
But my point here is that, in comparing pass attacks, it’s obvious which one is stronger and, interestingly, the stronger pass attack belongs to the team which is inexplicably an underdog at the top sports betting sites.
It’s hard to be worse than Devin Leary, NC State’s incompetent quarterback who failed to complete half his pass attempts in 210 tries last season. His inefficiency was a regular, game-by-game feature.
Hartman’s serviceability gives Wake Forest’s offense a multi-dimensional quality that will enable it to outscore NC State’s. His pass attack complements Wake's deep and deeply promising array of running backs. Kenneth Walker is the team’s leading returning running back. He flashes impressive speed that makes him dangerous when bouncing a run outside the tackles.
An NCAAF Pick on favored NC State is unjustifiable given the novelty of its coaching staff and the incompetence of its quarterback. Wake Forest brings a multi-dimensional offense with Hartman and an array of running backs, all of whom benefit from continuity in coaching. For the above reasons, feel free to take the Demon Deacons on the money-line in addition to ATS.
Best Bet: Demon-Deacons +2.5 (-105) with Heritage