I know, I know. Boston College football has been nothing short of dreadful lately, and reached a new low after getting thoroughly beaten by a near-FCS level opponent in UConn last week. For those who can still find some sort of interest in this lost season, we sat down with Luke Jovanovic of the Duke Chronicle to preview this Friday’s ACC matchup under the lights.
1. Duke currently sits at 5-3, with some highs and lows so far throughout the season. What’s your current feeling/mood around the team?
For the first time since the Daniel Jones era (2017), Duke football looks to be on the upswing. After going 0-9 in ACC play last year, Mike Elko has the program buzzing with new life. If not for a bad, uncharacteristic loss against Georgia Tech and questionable calls down the stretch against UNC, Duke could very well be 7-1 and ranked. Quarterback Riley Leonard, after winning the starting job right before Week 1, has blossomed into a dual threat weapon; he has tossed for 1693 yards with a 64.4% completion percentage and rushed for 481 more yards on the ground. The Duke defense, while challenged at times, has enough talent to keep the team in games.
Overall, Duke fans have more reason to be optimistic now than ever. With tailgating finally allowed back at football games (along with other incentives), attendance has increased steadily and the culture surrounding football has shifted. The feeling is that Duke will make a competitive bowl game, and they have a chance to clinch that this weekend.
2. Mike Elko is a rookie head coach this year. How has he done with the program?
In 2021 under Coach Cutcliffe, Duke lost 48-0 against Virginia on the road in one of the worst games in school history. In 2022, facing a Virginia team who returned a majority of their offensive personnel, including their quarterback, Duke blew the doors off Virginia 38-17. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Elko Era.
Mike Elko came to Duke after his tenure as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, and his hard nose, blue collar style has rubbed off on the players in the best way possible. The team has bought into his schemes and have been implementing them successfully. Arguably the biggest strength of Elko and his staff is the first quarter offensive scheming: Duke has scored a touchdown in 6 of its 8 first quarters. Look for Duke’s offense to come out of the gates humming thanks to proper film study and exploitation of weaknesses.
3. BC’s O-line has been atrocious this year. How does Dukes front 7 match up?
I’m sure Boston College fans will not like to hear this, but Duke’s front seven is by far the best unit on the team. Led by NFL-bound DT DeWayne Carter, the front seven has the ability to get to the quarterback and fast; Duke has registered 19 sacks on the season so far. In the linebacking core, senior Shaka Heyward awaits to stop the run, and he has done so effectively, amassing 55 tackles on the season.
However, the most dynamic, game-changing aspect of the front seven is their ability to force fumbles. Duke leads college football with 15 fumble recoveries. You want to see why DeWayne Carter will be drafted? Watch him snatch away this ball from the Miami RB like candy from a baby.
4. BC’s danger man is Zay Flowers. How will Duke’s secondary stop him?
Better news for Boston College fans: the Duke passing defense has not been very good. They rank 105th in the country with an average of 260 yards allowed per game. Zay Flowers is a second round NFL pick no doubt about it. Even though CB Brandon Johnson blanketed Miami two weeks ago earning him ACC Defensive Player of the Week, and S Darius Joiner ranks 13th in college football in tackles, stopping Zay Flowers will be difficult. However, if Duke can clog up the run game and/or get to the quarterback, Phil Jurkovec may not have enough time to get the ball to Flowers. Expect double teams or at the least safety help on Flowers’ side of the field.
5. How does Duke pull out the win? What about BC?
Duke pulls out the win if they play how they played against Miami (or even a little worse). They got the ground game going early, Riley Leonard played nearly perfectly, and the defense forced a record 8 turnovers. So long as Duke wins the turnover battle and Riley Leonard is able to perform at his capability, Duke wins comfortably.
BC wins if Duke plays like they did against Georgia Tech. Duke fell into the trap game mentality and overlooked Georgia Tech, an opponent they should’ve beat with an arm tied behind their back. They were sloppy on both sides of the ball, and only came to life too late to try and salvage the game. If Duke’s offense grinds to a halt near field goal range, and the Duke secondary is unable to contain Zay Flowers, Boston College wins a very low scoring game.
Thanks to Luke for his time. Boston College hosts Duke this Friday at 7pm. As always, roll eags.