Duke's Next Challenge Is Army Strong

Mike KlineAnalyst ISeptember 11, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 20:  Army head coach Rich Ellerson looks on during a press conference announcing that Yankee Stadium will play host to the 2010 Notre Dame v Army college football game on July 19, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The game is to be played on November 20, 2010.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

A week ago trying to predict a winner in the Duke-Army game this coming Saturday seemed like a no brainer.

What a difference a week makes. Duke (0-1) heads into Week Two of the College Football season still licking its wound and nursing its pride after a thorough defeat at the hands of the FCS's Richmond Spiders.

After the loss a lot of confidence in what Duke will be able to do against their fellow FBS schools seemed lost.

Had Duke handled Richmond I would have easily been picking Duke in their matchup with Army (1-0) but in the words of the immortal Lee Corso, "not so fast my friends."

This game is definitely worth another look.

The boys from West Point head into this game with a lot of confidence under first year head coach Rich Ellerson.

The Black Knights ran all over Eastern Michigan last week to the tune of 300 yards. If Duke could have mustered a third of that against Richmond last week perhaps the outcome would have been more favorable.

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Instead the Blue Devils will need to prepare for some classic option football and a lot of it. Army will run and when they are done running they will run some more.

Army quarterback Trent Stillman only threw five times for only two completions and eight yards. Instead, the Knights let Patrick Mealy and Kingsley Ehie do the load of the work carrying for a combined 184 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

While I'd expect more of the same this week against a Duke defense that was less than impressive, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few shots taken down the field against Duke's rather weak secondary.

Last week the Blue Devils allowed Richmond to gain nearly 300 yards in what was a balanced attack for the Spiders.

Head Coach David Cutcliffe needs to see his defensive front get some pressure in the backfield this week otherwise it will be a long day for the defense.

Only one player last week recorded a tackle for a loss, and that won't get it done against the option.

Against a disciplined option scheme Duke will need to be even more disciplined and play assignment football. If they allow the kind of mental and physical lapses that crept into their performance against the Spiders, 300 yards will seem meager in comparison.

But ultimately if the defense struggles it will be up the offense to muster some semblance of balance this week to win.

And if the game comes down to special teams then Cutcliffe better have a kicker he can send out there to get the job done. In Week One, there didn't appear to be one.

If Duke can't control the line of scrimmage or find any kind of running game when they have the ball expect this game to be a blowout.

I fully expect Army to dominate time of possession so here is to hoping Duke's defensive players are in great shape.

Believe it or not I still have enough faith in the Blue Devils to think they can get the job done this week.

I don't expect a defensive battle and am anticipating high numbers in the passing game for Duke and big rushing numbers from Army.

If the Devils can muster 100 plus yards rushing in this one I think they come out on top. However, another poor performance and a loss may require a take-three in assessing what we can expect from this Duke team.

Prediction: Duke 34 Army 28

Players to Watch for Duke: Duke O-Line, Re'quan Boyette and Jay Hollingsworth—it will be key for Duke to get some rushing yards and it starts with the boys up front and the two primary backs. Don't be surprised to see some Desmond Scott sightings in this game as Cutcliffe may want to use his athleticism.

Players to Watch for Army: Mealy and Ehie will again expect to carry the load. If Army executes the option they can negate any athletic advantage Duke may have.