You’ll have to forgive the short preview this week.  I’ve been pressed for time.

Duke is a good football team, and they have been for a while.

Head Coach David Cutcliffe won a grand total of 21 games in his first five years (just over 4 wins per season), but he won 46 in his next six.  (nearly 8 wins per season).  That also includes three straight bowl wins.

Duke Cutcliffe Record

Of course this kind of record at Pitt would likely have gotten him run out of town after his first eight win season (following one of 10 and one of 9…)

Still, Cutcliffe’s got a winning recipe going, and it usually starts with the quarterback.

This year is no different.

Senior Quentin Harris is having himself a good season.

Quentin Harris

However Alabama did hold Harris to 12-22 / 97 yds / 0 TD / 2 INT in the season opener (Duke lost 42-3)

Don’t get any illusions though.  Pitt’s defense is good, but they probably aren’t Alabama good.

Duke’s three wins have come against somewhat lesser competition.  There was the 45-13 win against North Carolina A&T (46.3 Sagarin Rating), a 41-18 win against Middle Tennessee State (55.2), and last week’s 45-10 romp over Virginia Tech (65.1).

For what it’s worth, Alabama’s rating is 101.8.  Duke’s is 76.1.  Pitt’s is 72.3.  So yes, we will be the stiffest test Duke has faced since rolling with the Tide, and one could argue that Pitt is probably a little bit underrated, while Virginia Tech is still probably a little bit overrated.

And that of course, is due in a large part to Pitt’s defense.  As I mentioned on Tuesday, our defense is pretty good.

We’re 27th nationally in total defense.  We’re second nationally in sacks, and eighth nationally in tackles for loss.

Duke’s offensive line is pretty good as well.  Probably the best we’ve faced to-date.  They rank 14th nationally in “stuff rate” (% of carries that are stopped at or before the line of scrimmage), and they’ve given up a grand total of one sack in four games.  That’s tied for first in the country.

Pitt’s front seven is going to have their work cut out for them if they want to get to Harris.

That makes the Duz’ defensive formula that much more important.  Duke is going to want to use quick passes to negate our pass rush, and they will execute it well. Aggressive and fundamentally sound football will be the only thing that can stop it.  The corners are going to need to play a very tough press-man, and really focus on their jams at the line.   Yards after the catch must not be allowed.  Everyone is going to have to tackle.

And we’re going to have to stop it because our offense is still a huge question mark.  Save the UCF game, the story has not changed.  Lots of yards through the air, a middling completion percentage, an anemic running game and few points on the board.  Duke is ranked 42nd in total defense BTW, so it’s probable that we will be able to move the ball, but until Pitt proves otherwise, I’ll be skeptical about our ability to score.

And so the story of this game is the story of the season so far.  If Pitt comes out with energy and executes close to perfectly, we’ve got a shot to win, mostly because of our defense.  If Pitt comes out flat and / or makes mistakes, we will surely lose.

Still, our team’s stated goal is to win the ACC, and they are going to need to run the table to do it.  That means every week is a must-win.

Pitt has risen to the occasion three times so far.  They pulled it together after a tough UVA loss and beat an Ohio team that may predicted would give them trouble.  They pulled it together after an emotional loss to Penn State and took down UCF.  Pitt played poorly last week against Delaware, and so there is some pulling-it-together to be done.

Lets hope the team is up to the challenge.

Hail to Pitt

Michaelangelo Monteleone

 

92 thoughts on “Previewing Duke

  1. Good article MM.

    I think this will be a close game. Last possession wins.

    The D will be fine as long as the DBs stay healthy. Hopefully Pinnock is back, they will need him when Duke spreads the field.

    Pray Pickett is healthy or Pitt has no chance. The need to win the time of possession this game.

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    1. I disagree as most of these players have seen the triple option except trueFR and the LB Johnson. All of the coaches on the D side have prepped for live games too.

      I believe Bates is up for the task.

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  2. Duke is one of the few universities where the largest percentage of sports revenue is generated by the basketball program. It also does not have a great or even a pretty good FB history. Thus, the Duke admin and most alums/fans are pretty satisfied with Cutliffe … and they should be.

    And Cutliffe is smart enough to know a good gig when he has one.

    It’s amazing how things can change in a weeks time. A week ago, there was talk that Pitt may be favored in the remainder of its games. Now it is nearly a TD underdog. This is typical of overreactive fans and media.

    Pitt will be much better this week and Duke may not be so good …. who knows? I expect a very good game; this is the almost the antithesis of recent Pitt-UNC where the games are real close but Pitt always loses. I expect a very competitive game

    Liked by 1 person

        1. What’s their Strength of Schedule relative to Pitt? I’d venture to say Pitt has played a slightly tougher one

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          1. Alabama is 5-0 Wins over New Mexico St. & Southern Miss. Duke & lower Middling conference foe Ole’ Miss & the Gamecocks. Gave up 10, 7, 3, 31, & 23. respectively.

            College football has changed from a running game to a passing game when Alabama & LSU are ranked in the top 10 for Passing offense but in the 50’s or lower for rushing.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. It looks to be two evenly matched teams. Turnovers as always will be the key.
    Pitt’s defense is much faster this year so that should help as long as they make tackles.
    QB’ play will also be key, which one plays the better game on Saturday?
    Pitt must not let the Duke QB beat them with his legs.

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  4. MM – good info.

    —Notice the tarping in the above photo of Duke’s stadium. Tex pleased! 😊

    —This game has me nervous already…

    Go Pitt!

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    1. Duke is smart. But then again we all knew that.

      That stadium reminds me of another dump – old Pitt Stadium.

      Does the Dookie stadium have piss troughs?

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  5. Pitt wins if KP is healthy!!!

    Duke hasn’t seen a defense this good since Alabama. Is this the game P. Ford takes a pick back for a TD? Maybe.

    I recall last year we put 54 on Duke! This is our complete offensive breakout game here! Them boys are rested up after taking it easy on Delaware. Q. Harris is about to get smacked in the mouth like all the other QBs we have played. Let’s go!!!!!!!!!!

    #H2P

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Pitt has seen everything the Duke offense will throw at them. The key will be whether or not they have defensive breakdowns and players fall asleep and forget the QB options. They do a good job of negating the rush, so contain will be important and man coverage better be good. If Pickett is back, Pitt should score 30 points, but Duke could get as many if there are breakdowns on defense.

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  7. On his radio show, Coach Duzz made an interesting comment about Todd Sibley. Something to the effect that TS is so concerned about doing everything right that he can be tentative in how he plays.

    Said Sibley is tough to tackle in practice. Said he thought TS started to “just play” and let it go more against Delaware…

    We need him to step it up.

    Go Pitt.

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  8. Glass half full take: the offense made significant progress from game one to game three. Game four against Delaware bucked that trend due to the number of guys who sat out. The offense will be back in gear this week, looking much as they did against UCF.

    This is what I’m hoping for, anyway.

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  9. Reason No. 5121 for not paying too much attention to pre-season picks / ratings. I looked back at 4 different ACC prediction articles (CBS Sports, Athlon, College FB News and ESPN) and all had Va Tech rated higher than both Duke and Pitt. ESPN rated Boston College and VT as the 3rd and 4th best teams in the ACC.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. “If Pitt…executes close to perfectly, we’ve got a shot to win”

    I disagree with this. It’s Duke – if Pitt executes close to “perfectly”, we will blow them out of the water.

    I am confident in Pitt’s ability to handle Quentin Harris. Bryce Perkins threw for 5.3 yards per attempt against Pitt, and had 18 carries for only 44 yards. I don’t believe Harris is on Perkins’ level, so I have faith that they can contain him.

    My biggest matchup concern is RB Deon Jackson – he torched Pitt last year both running and catching out of the backfield, and had a great game against VT last week.

    On offense, we’ve averaged 41 points over 4 games vs Duke under Narduzzi. Our offense has shown enough over the last four games that I have confidence there as well. I expect 450+ total yards….but, as we’ve been saying, it comes down to converting yards into points.

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  11. The offense has never really been in gear all season long. Pickett needs to be able to run with the ball on broken pass plays. Unfortunately I don’t think will see any of that come Saturday if he plays.

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  12. Fun stat: Pitt’s D allowed 310 yards to Virginia. Pitt had allowed 310 yards or fewer in only 5 of Pat Narduzzi’s first 32 ACC games.

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  13. On the other hand, according to Chris Peak’s podcast, Pitt has kept opponents under their season scoring average in our last 11 games.

    The last team to score more than their season average ——- Duke!

    Go Pitt.

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  14. Two more fun factoids from Chris Peak’s podcast:

    —In 62 opponent possessions, Pitt has given up 11 TDs. However, Pitt has only given up 5 TDs where the opponent has driven the ball more than 50 yards.

    —Of the other 6 TDs, 5 of them have been on short-field drives of less than 30 yards…

    Go Pitt.

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    1. More evidence that the defense has been excellent. I believe that at season’s end, we will look at this defense as the best since 2002.

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  15. According to Accuweather, High in Durham today is forecast to be 97. Friday’s high is forecasted to be 91. Saturday is forecasted to be 71. One day & gorgeous weather arrives for gameday.

    Same weather for Greenville – Spartanburg, SC. Today’s high is forecast to be 98. Shatters the all time high for any day in October.The record 97 set yesterday. I have been waiting for normal highs for a month. Now if it would only rain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Same thing down here in Aiken. Hot and very dry. New record highs every day! It better be cool on Saturday evening!

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      1. For some reason, I thought you lived along the coast. When I complained about the heat in “Famously Hot” Columbia, my wife would always say “at least we are not in Augusta”.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Earlier this week, Durham’s 5-day forecast said 68 at 8:00PM; 60 at 11 PM!! Hoping for no rain during the game!!

    Will bring a sweatshirt (Script) with me – been quite a few months since I’ve seen 60 degrees!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. OhHowIHOState…I think we are going to have 25 or so in our group … Pitt-Cocks fan/Richard will be at there…we will hook up….Let’s Get Loud!!!! and somebody please remind me to push the button on my cardiac monitor if and when I go ballistic…I have said for years that PITT Panther provides for a lot of free stress tests……

    Historically, Duke is pretty slack on letting people move from their seats to areas not occupied…hopefully, folks can move near our group if they want to join this rowdy group……I plan on bringing the WUP’s Flag…time for a little PRIME TIME National exposure…..

    “Let’s Go PITT!!!!!” still the best cheer in the land…makes my heart “beat a skip.” (remember that line???Buddy Holly Story)

    Liked by 2 people

  18. frankmd…I can post that later when I look at my tickets unless someone on here beats me to it…I know we will be on the PITT side between the 35-40 on the end closer to Cameron Indoor stadium…will get you specifics when I get home this afternoon…I can speak for all the POVerts..we would love to meet you…can you post your email…mine is bblystone12@gmail.com

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    1. OsborneCox, Stop by and say Hi… meet n greet… POVert style!!!

      Are you related to the great Pitt panther-Fred Cox???

      Ike, if you change your mind… Get your ass down here… You are the only thing missing….love you brother!

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  19. OT: Outland Trophy National Defensive Player of the Month, J Twyman DT Pitt. I’m just hoping he sticks around for another season at Pitt beyond this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hey folks, Keep Phil Murphy in your prayers… He Was was one of my high school teachers and coaches who has stopped by a couple of Fran’s recent tailgates. Unbeknownst to me he earned his masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh… and has been an avid fan for many years and a season ticket holder.
    He came through the surgery fine… The hard grind begins… I told him he needs to get off of the injury reserve list by the Miami game…

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  21. I will Biggie…I didnt know Mr Murphy was having surgery.
    Great guy to talk to…he knew one of my neighbors very well.
    See yinz guys in Durham tomorrow evening!

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  22. I am well aware that Duzz makes some stupid game day decisions and also that his recruiting needs to improve in order to reach “the next level” (whatever that means), but I’d rather suffer through some of those decisions than pay someone like Mike Leach his salary to coach the team I root for.

    From last weeks post-game press conference:

    Leach let loose on his feelings about his team and its performances, describing the Cougars as “fat, dumb, happy and entitled “I think we’ve got a bunch of free agents running around there that think they’re pretty special, and then as soon as something doesn’t go their way, they want to pout”

    Mike Leach salary: $3.75mm;
    $4.0mm next year

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      1. I’d anybody if you subscribe to The Athletic there is an article in there about Leach. They interviewed a bunch of his former quarterbacks. It’s hilarious and eye opening. Love him or hate him dude is a CHARACTER

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  23. Many POVers say this will be a close game. I’m wondering: defensive struggle or offensive explosion? Will the punters or the field goal kickers be more important?

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  24. Remember we heard Narduzzi can’t recruit star players? How about twyman, Paris ford, and the db’s. I just hope these guys hang around

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  25. Rrally looking forward to meeting all the POV tailgaters I didn’t meet last year at Wake Forest

    BigB – Dianne says to tell you she is healthy as can be, and won’t miss this tailgate or game! She’s got the Royal Blue nails – so we will bring home the W!!

    Liked by 2 people

  26. here is a very interesting graphic. I realize the ACC is made up of smaller schools but this surprises me in many ways. I know Wake only has an enrollment of 5500 undergrads but having only about 75k living alums seem very small
    \

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    1. And if everybody gave just $1 more per month than they do today… that’s and extra $4 M to university athletics.

      $10 a month is +$40 M

      Cue angry fans: “I’m not giving those bums my money until they start winning”

      Bogus attitude In My Opinion

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Pitt does a poor job reaching out. No strategy. No tactics.

        Cue the Pitt admin. Give me your money. We’ll waste it. And finish last in directors cup.

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    2. wwb – I also thought it was strange. Made a quick calculation of 75,000 divided by 5,000 and the answer was 15. But that answer made an average Wake grad only lives to approximately age 37. What’s in the water at Wake? Is my life span shortened because I attended last year’s Wake game? (Maybe not – I drank a lot of beer.)

      Then I remembered, I had to multiply 15 x 4 as the 5,000 assumption is for 4 classes. Now the answer is 60. Maybe I should have only drank water.

      Liked by 2 people

  27. Mack has really become the go to guy among the receivers with Ffrench and the othe receivers and tight ends being a little bit of a letdown. As a group they need to pick it up a bit. I don’t include Mathews in that group since they don’t throw enough to him.

    This is somewhat concerning for next year, maybe we get another transfer. Mack up there with Peterman as one our best transfers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Narduzzi is quoted in the Trib that they will try for a med exemption for Tripton who for the 3rd time had a season ending injury. He didn’t play at all in 2017. Of course, even if he is granted another year, you have to keep your fingers crossed.

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    2. I am probably being a little too hard on FFrench, he does have 40 catches, but many are bubble screens.
      His avg per catch at 8.55 not very good, but his team mates have been missing blocks on those screens.

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  28. The above is pretty much a direct correlation to student enrollment, which makes sense. I was told by a Pitt medical student earlier this year that Pitt has one of the highest percentages of med students per overall enrollment in the US. I assume that means both undergard and grad … but have no proof of this data

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        1. Key question is how many of the 19k give damn about Pitt football or Pitt sports in general.

          Take a look at the Heinz Field endzone sections on the 4th qtr for a clue to the answer.

          A consistently successful program will turn that around but it will take time.

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          1. There is also no culture of giving. Clemson has a lot of 7 and 8 win seasons under tommy Bowden but I’d bet their fundraising was still pretty damn strong. That’s a slow and hard road at Pitt and if we do start winning consistently Pitt needs to leverage that to help build the giving culture faster

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  29. Did I just hear them say that Cincy has a 29-year old playing right guard??

    Have watched UCF Cincy off and on. UCF QB looking not so good tonight. Have only seen one rainbow, which was incomplete but earned a PI call. His sideline throws don’t have the mustard you’d like to see…

    They put up a stat early that UCF’s average scoring drive for the season is 1 minute and 39 seconds.

    Right now, Gabriel getting sacked every play…

    Go Pitt.

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  30. Heard Paul Zeise say tonight that his son Elijah will be doing some duty on the Pitt radio pre-game tomorrow.

    Would like to see EZ become a local radio guy. Get rid of the guys currently on the FAN who are impossible to listen to like Cook, Poni, etc…

    Go Pitt.

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  31. MM – regarding your comment about Clemson fans giving, even in less productive years. What else can they spend their $$ on, once they’ve bought their seed, and cultivated their fields??

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  32. John (Major), I’m with you on the Fan radio “talent”. The ego displayed is off the charts and I can’t figure why I should give a fig about their opinion on anything. I’d be all for an Elijah and Dorin show!

    Liked by 1 person

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