Maryland (2-5) at Duke (3-3)
1:30 EST, Saturday, October 24
Why to watch: Duke was also 3-3 at this time a year ago, but faded down the stretch in its attempt to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. This year’s edition vowed during its bye week to be different. Leading up to the break, the Blue Devils were 2-1, with the lone loss coming to Virginia Tech by only eight points. If David Cutcliffe’s kids are going to play past November, they’ve got to take the winnable games, like this Saturday, for instance. Maryland appears be the ACC’s worst team. It could become official this week in Durham. The Terrapins are just 1-5 against FBS teams, losing the last two to Wake Forest and Virginia, and appearing to have also lost the drive to overcome a gap in talent.
Why Maryland might win: Don’t judge the Terp offense based solely on last week’s game with Virginia. It’s was a quagmire and the Cavs are playing real well defensively. Prior to that, Maryland was beginning to show signs of life, with the running of Davin Meggett and the pitch-and-catch combo of Chris Turner to Torrey Smith. Duke has one of the league’s worst defenses, unable to get to the quarterback or make enough stops on third down.
Why Duke might win: The hottest quarterback in the ACC? How about Blue Devil veteran Thaddeus Lewis, who has accounted for 11 touchdowns and no picks over the last three games? His corps of receivers is growing deeper and more mature with each passing game. He can spread the ball around to a number of different capable hands, including receivers Donovan Varner, Conner Vernon, Austin Kelly, and Johnny Williams. The Terps’ league-worst scoring defense and inexperienced secondary doesn’t figure to offer too much resistance.
Who to watch: When Lewis drops back to pass, he won’t be limited to just his wide receivers. TE Brett Huffman has proven to be a reliable target as well. Like an oversized receiver, he runs good routes and has soft hands, turning his 10 receptions into 109 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll be matched with Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten, and Demetrius Hartsfield, who comprise one of the nation’s more underrated collections of linebackers.
What will happen: Assuming the weather cooperates, this could be one of the more entertaining shootouts of the weekend. Both teams have capable parts in the passing game and defenses susceptible to breakdowns and blown coverages. The difference is that Duke has something to play for and a sizzling quarterback. Lewis will remain in the zone, peppering an overmatched Maryland secondary for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
CFN Prediction: Duke 35 … Maryland 27 ... Line: Duke -6