by Mike Potter
Duke has had a couple of weeks to work its early-season kinks out, and for the first time this season the Blue Devils will get a shot at a big-time Division I FBS team when they visit Kansas on Saturday.
The storied basketball programs from the two schools have met in some awfully big games, but it's the first meeting in football and in fact Duke's first time squaring off with an opponent from the Big 12 in 20 years.
Blue Devil coach David Cutcliffe has said he thinks this, his second Duke team, has enough talent to play in a bowl game. Saturday's trip to Lawrence would be a great opportunity to show it.
"We were better in the second game [than the first game, a 24-16 home loss to FCS superpower Richmond], and we'll be better in the third game than we were in the first two," Cutcliffe said. "I'm not as worried about Kansas as I am about Duke. They haven't played anybody who has played well yet, and we want to be that team."
He is, though, concerned about KU quarterback Todd Reesing.
"Wherever he is on the field, he can attack any part of the field," Cutcliffe continued. "You want to maintain your coverage discipline. ... If my quarterback's uniform is clean after the game, there's a chance we played a very good game."
Blue Devil senior defensive end Ayanga Okpokowuruk (pictured) said his team is going to have to raise its playing level a notch to have a chance for an upset.
"I feel like the onus is on us to have our intensity level high in every game we play," Okpokowuruk said. "Regardless of what our opponent is doing we feel we need to be up to the challenge.
"(Kansas) is definitely a big challenge, but it's also a big opportunity for us. We're getting better every day we're on the practice field, and that's all we can control.
Duke (1-1) vs. No. 22 Kansas (2-0)
[Noon (EDT) Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.]
Audio: WDNC-620, GoDuke.com, kuathletics.com
Key stats ...
Duke: Team scoring 25.5 to opponents' 21.5. Rushing 44.5 to 195.5. Passing 258.0 to 138.0. Individual leaders - (rush) Re'quan Boyette 30-63 0TD, (pass) Thaddeus Lewis 39-71-0-410 3 TD, (receive) Johnny Williams 9-133 1 TD, (tackle) Vincent Rey 24.
Kansas: Team scoring 41.5 to opponents' 5.0. Rushing 291.5 to 39.0. Passing 270.0 to 188.0. Individual leaders - (rush) Jake Sharp 37-227 3 TD, (pass) Todd Reesing 38-61-468-1 3 TD, (receive) Kerry Meier 9-130 0 TD, (tackle) Justin Thornton 12, 1 int.
Best message board tidbit on the game:
Crossoveryp on DevilsIllustrated.com "I assume you (a Kansas fan) believe Duke is as weak as N. Colorado & UTEP. If that's the case, you are in for a rude awakening this Saturday. Kansas is the better team overall, but Duke has the talent to keep this game in check if they keep away from stupid mistakes. That being said, Duke should keep this game interesting but Kansas should get the win. However, I wouldn't be surprised at all if it turns out to be a nail-biter. Kansas 31, Duke 24."
Duke will win if ... The defense can keep Reesing in check, and the offense can avoid turning the ball over. The Blue Devils will need a big game at quarterback, whether Thaddeus Lewis or Sean Renfree is under center, and will also need to move the ball a bit on the ground to get the passing game some room to work. Duke's defensive front could be a secret weapon in this game. If the Blue Devils can get a couple of sacks and an interception, this one could be closer than expected.
Kansas will win if ... The Jayhawks just keep doing what they have been doing. They have rolled up big scores against Northern Colorado and Texas-El Paso and looked good doing it. Duke will be a bigger challenge, and the Jayhawks have to believe that from the start. If they can avoid turnovers and keep Duke's rushing yardage in the very low numbers, the Jayhawks could have a comfortable win.
Can the French Blue Devils stand up against the Mythical Blue Jayhawks? It's possible, but it certainly wouldn't be the conventional prediction. Duke would need to play its best football game in a very long time to do it. The Devils were close to some big-time teams on several occasions last year and had an impressive finish on the road at Army. A win on Saturday would get Duke some well-deserved national attention on the gridiron.
What people are saying about the game:
Hallie Mann writes in The Daily Kansan: "Why then, with such a rich history, does Duke football seem to be in the shadows of the ACC and other sports in its own athletic program? Kansas faced a similar situation in years past, when basketball dominated the focus of athletics. After the last few seasons, though, the Kansas has become a contender in collegiate football. Kansas coach Mark Mangino said that schools that are content with being good at one thing are not stepping up to the challenge. Mangino has taken the stance that football and basketball at Kansas are not in a conflict with each other; in fact, they're a plus from his perspective. Mangino said the coaches from both teams often work together to recruit athletes."
Players to watch ...
Duke: #9 QB Thaddeus Lewis, #21 RB Re'quan Boyette, #3 DT Vince Oghobaase, # 31 MLB Vincent Rey.
Kansas: #1 RB Jake Sharp, #5 QB Todd Reesing, #41 LB Arist Wright, #46 FS Justin Thornton.
Injury report ...
Duke: RB Re'quan Boyette (ankle) probable, TE Danny Parker (ankle) probable, RB Jay Hollingsworth (ankle) questionable, DT Vince Oghobaase (leg) questionable, WR Conner Vernon (ankle) doubtful, RB Kyle Griswould (leg) OUT, CB Randez James (hand) OUT.
Kansas: K Jacob Branstetter (dizziness) probable, TE Tim Biere (illness) (questionable), DE Caleb Blakesley (undisclosed) probable.
Vegas line: Kansas by 22 1/2
Score prediction: Kansas 31, Duke 17