Duke-Maryland First Look: These Aren't Your Daddy's Blue Devils

I haven't gotten Sports Illustrated in awhile, so this might've been discontinued, but there used to be - maybe there still is - a little snippet titled "This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse". It was just a sentence about some rare, sports-related oddity. It wouldn't surprise me if this week it happened to be "Duke is favored by a touchdown over Maryland."

Really, though, it shouldn't be surprising, given how well Duke has played this year. The Blue Devils, the laughingstock of the ACC for nearly a quarter of a century, have seen a major rise in their level of play and stand at .500, going 3-3 with a win over NCSt, a somewhat respectable conference opponent.

The secret to Duke's success has been the play of their star QB, Thaddeus Lewis. Lewis currently ranks at 29 in the nation in passing efficiency, 13th in competions, and 17th in passing yardage. His main targets are Donovan Varner and Connor Vernon, a sophomore and freshman, respectively, both of whom rank in the top 50 in receiving yards per game. Indeed, Duke possesses one of the best passing attacks in the entire country, landing at 8th in the nation through the air.

Their rushing attack, obviously, isn't as prolific, and Maryland will have to focus on forcing them to run the ball. Sadly, arguably Maryland's best linebacker, Alex Wujciak, is rendered all but useless against the pass; I'd hope Don Brown would use a healthy dose of Darin Drakeford here.

On the other side of the ball, Duke has the traditional high-octane offense defense (ie, not a very good one). They aren't sieve-like, at 61st in the nation in total defense, but they have a knack for giving up a lot of points (92nd in the NCAA in that category), contributing to their tendency to get in shoot outs.

Maryland doesn't fare too well scoring points, so this could work one of two ways: Maryland's weakness is completely neutralized by Duke's weakness, letting the Terps put up more points than usual, or Maryland's weakness is too weak to take advantage of Duke's weakness and the Blue Devils roll.

Whichever way it plays out, we know one thing: if Maryland wins, they'll have to put up points to do it.

A fuller preview is coming on Friday, but this should tide you over.

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