Duke's offense is likely to put points on the board.
The Alabama Crimson Tide has enjoyed two stellar wins so far in this young season. Each of the first two opponents was physically and spiritually beaten by a superior 'Bama team. Virtually no one expects that to change this Saturday verses an overmatched Duke Blue Devil squad.
But let this article serve as a notice of some interesting items that might surprise the Tide Nation.
Coach Cutcliffe's team defeated playoff subdivision foe Elon the first week of the season, 41-27, but the offense showed no letdown against ACC opponent Wake Forest this past Saturday despite losing 54-48.
The Blue Devils are scoring at a clip not seen in Durham since the early 1950s. The 89 points combined are the most in a two game span since Duke had 90 combined points against South Carolina (33) and N.C. State (57) in 1952.
Duke's offense relies heavily on the pass. First year starter Sean Renfree has thrown for over 350 yards in each of the Blue Devils' two games and ranks fourth nationally among passing leaders. He even passed well last Saturday in a rainstorm.
And, let's give credit where credit is due: Cutcliffe knows how to mentor quarterbacks. Even the most die-hard 'Bama fan must admit that.
Last week against the Demon Deacons, WR Conner Vernon enjoyed his finest day as a Blue Devil by catching eight passes for a career-best 181 yards and two touchdowns. That yardage total ranks 10th on the school’s single-game chart.
So don't be surprised if 'Bama's defense gives up at least a touchdown this coming Saturday.
Cutcliffe is one of Bear's Boys.
Wallace Wade. Bear Bryant. Sugar Bowl.
Certainly these pertain to the tradition and history of Alabama, right?
Guess what? They are part of Duke's legacy and current state as well.
Coach Cutcliffe is a Birmingham native and a 'Bama graduate. As an undergraduate at Alabama, Cutcliffe worked as a student assistant coach under head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He knows the 'Bama mentality and the pride the program carries. He got a good look at it, up close, in stints at Tennessee and as the head coach at Ole Miss.
To this day, Cutcliffe carries in his wallet a newspaper clipping of Bryant’s along with a ticket stub from Alabama’s 28-17 win over Auburn at Legion Field in Birmingham on November 28, 1981 when Bryant became college football’s all-time winningest coach.
The other commonality the two programs share is the 1945 Sugar Bowl. Sportswriter Grantland Rice called the contest, “one of the greatest thrillers of all time,” as Duke came from behind twice to defeat Alabama, 29-26.
Tide fans at Durham this Saturday will see Duke honor the remaining members of that squad in a halftime ceremony.
And then there's coach Wallace Wade. The man whose bronze likeness stands outside of Bryant-Denny left Tuscaloosa to coach at...Duke. As even the youngest Tide fan knows, Wade was hired as the Tide's coach in 1923. Over the next seven years, Wade's team won three national championships and went to the Rose Bowl in 1925, 1926, and 1930.
That's when Wade "shocked the college football world" by moving to Durham. His winning ways continued, as he led the Blue Devils to an undefeated 1938 campaign (a team that was unscored upon) until they met USC in the 1939 Rose Bowl, losing 7-3.
Wade led his team back to the Rose Bowl where Duke lost the 1942 game to Oregon State. That game was played at Duke due to the recent attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
When the Crimson Tide enters the stadium Saturday, they will see the name Wallace Wade. Why? Because the stadium's named for the program's greatest coach.
Will Snyderwine is on the Groza watch list.
Most Alabama fans have been pleasantly surprised at the quality of play from the Tide's special teams thus far in the season. The kicking and punting game had to replace all of the skill positions but has performed admirably in the first two outings.
Duke doesn't have to worry about special teams. The squad boasts a solid kicker and punter as well as snapper and holder.
Redshirt junior kicker Will Snyderwine ranks in the top 10 for career made field goals at Duke. He connected on two field goals in each of Duke's first two games. He has 21 career field goals, good for a tie for eighth on the school's list. With a made percentage of 84%, Snyderwine sits atop the Duke record list. He has also been tapped for the Lou Groza Award watch list.
And he's never missed an extra point, posting a perfect 35/35.
Senior punter Kevin Jones ranks among the top punters in Duke history. He is currently ranked sixth in career punts (202) and career punting yards (7,954).He is one of eight punters in school history with 7,000 or more yards. His average of 39.38 yards per punt ranks 12th on the school’s career list.
On the return side, true freshman running back Juwan Thompson leads the ACC with a kickoff return average of 25.7yards per return.
So don't be surprised if Duke's special teams are slightly more special than Alabama's.
The record for a football crowd at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham was set in 2001 when the Blue Devils hosted North Carolina.
35,206 attended that game in the stadium that actually seats 33,941.
According to Duke's athletic department, the school has added eight sections of temporary bleachers, totaling 3,904 seats, for the Blue Devils’ matchup with Alabama on Saturday. The temporary sections will be on field level in the north and south end zones, as well as in six sections placed around the concourse level.
With the additional seats, capacity for the Duke-Alabama contest will be 37,845. And a few hundred Alabama fans will probably squeeze in as well, making the game a record breaker for attendance for a football game in Durham.
Julio Jones and the Tide will create huge plays Saturday.
Alabama will win this game.
The question is how.
Look for the Tide to make several plays this Saturday of 40+ yards, some of which will result in touchdowns.
Why do we say this?
First of all, the Tide is due. Thus far, in the two games to date, the longest play from scrimmage for Alabama has been a McElroy pass to Maze for 48 yards. There has been not one return (save the fumble return last week against Penn State) of any length. There has not been a run longer than Trent Richardson's 39 yard jaunt.
Simply put: 'Bama is due in a serious way.
One cannot have this stable of potent weaponry without a long distance score happening soon. And with Ingram back, the time is now.
With Duke's questionable defense, this will be the week the Crimson Tide scores a long one--maybe several long ones.