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Duke Preview

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KU heads back to the Carolinas for its final noncon matchup.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Duke William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas hits the road for its final noncon matchup. The Jayhawks (1-2, 0-1) come into the game off a thorough 45-7 thrashing from conference foe Baylor. Meanwhile, Duke (2-1, 0-0) enters the contest off a 30-23 home win over Northwestern.

PREGAME

Kansas and Duke are meeting for just the third time in football, with the series evenly split at 1-1.

KU is just 10-28 against the ACC all-time.

Kwamie Lassiter moved to 15th all-time on the KU receptions list, one spot behind Isaac Byrd. He needs 8 more receptions to move into the top-10.

Kansas is one of 19 teams nationally that has yet to throw an INT so far this season.

Duke currently ranks in the top-30 nationally in rush offense, passing offense, and total offense.

FIRST DOWN

Just how good is Duke? They smashed NCA&T which was to be expected, but played a couple of one-score games against Charlotte and Northwestern. Still, they’ve been racking up offensive yards at an impressive pace. S&P+ says the 49ers (at #112) rate similarly to Kansas (#120), while Northwestern isn’t that much higher (#85) and Duke itself sits at #89.

The Jayhawks failed to pass the muster in their first “barometer game” of the season last week against Baylor. So, let’s give them another one. Duke was picked to finish last in the ACC’s Coastal Division, and was curiously the only team that didn’t earn at least one first place vote. If Kansas can’t be competitive in this one, we’ll have confirmation that it’s time to stop drinking the kool-aid.

SECOND DOWN

Duke’s offense indeed looks impressive so far. The quarterback, Gunnar Holmberg, is completing over 70% of his passes at 11.4 yards per completion. Additionally, the Devils have two RBs averaging over 6 yards per carry, with primary back Mateo Durant leading the way. Duke has cracked 500 yards of total offense twice in its three games this year, and the only one they didn’t was the game against NCA&T.

Finding a way to slow the run game against Duke will be key, as I still think KU has a decent secondary that can handle the pass. However, after last week’s performance against Baylor that saw the Bears go for 6.8 yards per rush, it’s clear KU has a lot of work to do in that department.

Additionally, KU’s defensive struggles on third and fourth down continue. Opponents are converting at a nearly 50% clip against Kansas, which ranks 112 out of 130 NCAA teams.

THIRD DOWN

Offensively, Kansas itself has struggled in all three games so far. Kansas ranks in the bottom 20% in D1 in every major team offensive category. In short, KU’s offense is offensive. Running backs are averaging around 2 yards per carry, which tells me that the line isn’t getting any push. Any time the Jayhawks run on first down, that has usually set up 2nd and long, which then turns into 3rd and long, which then turns in to a punt.

Think I’m kidding? KU has gone 3-and-out on 12 of its 34 drives so far this year, or 35%. Additionally, KU has punted on 17 of 34 possessions, a 50% clip. I don’t know of any site that tracks those numbers, but I’m guessing both rank somewhere where you don’t want to be if you’re an offensive coordinator.

If the offense is going to improve this year, it’s got to improve on first down to give the Jayhawks any chance of hanging on to the ball and keeping the other offense off the field.

FOURTH DOWN

S&P+ ranks Duke at #89 this week, with Kansas down at #120. It gives the Devils an 81% chance at victory, and predicts a 35-19 Duke win.

ESPN’s FPI Matchup Predictor is much less kind, giving Duke a 90.5% chance at victory.

Meanwhile, Sagarin prefers the Devils more similarly to S&P+, giving Duke a 79% chance to come away victorious. Sagarin has Kansas ranked #127 and Duke ranked #101 (out of 258).

PREDICTION

Duke’s rush offense vs KU’s lack of rush defense absolutely terrifies me in this matchup. Kansas hasn’t given any indication that it is willing or able to stop the run this year, which makes for brutal second halves of football games as said defense wears down.

KU may hang around for a half again. But can they consistently slow the Duke offense? Offensively, can the Jayhawks get 4+ yards on first down? We haven’t seen much indication of either so far this season.

That said, this is, statistically, KU’s best chance at a win for the rest of the season. Barometer game against one of the worst ACC teams? Absolutely. Unfortunately, I’m still in believe-it-when-I-see-it mode. Duke 38, Kansas 14.

EXTRA POINT