Duke (6-4) at Georgia Tech (5-5)
Nov. 17, 3:30, ESPNU
Here's The Deal: Welcome to the world of the ACC Coastal, where Duke and Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium still matters in the league title chase.
There are three teams, each with three conference losses, still vying for a spot in the Dec. 1 championship game. The Blue Devils and the Yellow Jackets are two of them, joining Miami. Duke will play both to close out the regular season, so it controls its own destiny to get to Charlotte in two weeks. The program has solidified its first bowl bid since 1994, but now it wants to get greedy and shake up the Coastal.
Georgia Tech has awoken from its midseason slumber, and just in time, too. With double-digit wins over Maryland and North Carolina, the Yellow Jackets have clawed back to .500, with that chance to cop the division if the ‘Canes lose their final conference game. Even if Miami wins, Tech needs this game to become bowl eligible, especially with a trip to Athens in the on-deck circle.
Why Duke Might Win: Tech just got lit up by North Carolina, the fifth time in the last seven games its allowed at least 41 points.
The Blue Devils enter Week 12 healthy and well-rested. They're eager to get a piece of a Yellow Jackets D that ranks 88th nationally versus the pass. As QB Sean Renfree goes, so goes Duke, and the senior could go for 300 yards this weekend. He and his teammates have been able to push the reboot button following back-to-back blowout losses to Florida State and Clemson. Renfree has formed a solid working relationship with receivers Jamison Crowder and Conner Vernon, who've both amassed more than 800 receiving yards.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win: Led by a new queen bee, the Jackets are humming on offense.
Head coach Paul Johnson has expanded the role of redshirt freshman QB Vad Lee, who has responded beyond expectations. He's provided an instant spark, accounting for 281 yards and three scores in last Saturday's record-setting 68-50 win over the Tar Heels. The option is rolling again, with backs Orwin Smith and David Sims picking up chunks of yardage on the ground. Better opponents have smashed the Duke defense, an overmatched unit that ranks No. 10 in the ACC against the run.
What To Watch Out For: So why is Lee suddenly all the rage on the Flats these days?
The second-year quarterback is the best of both worlds for Georgia Tech in that he's sparking the offense today, yet is also laying the groundwork to be the quarterback of the future. All of his skills were on display a week ago, from his quick feet and retention of the system to his accuracy in the passing game. Lee's 18 completions this fall have gone for 446 yards and three scores, meaning Duke will need to pay attention to big-play WR Jeff Greene on the outside.
What Will Happen: Georgia Tech is building a head of steam at the right time, and wants what Duke currently has—a postseason berth.
The firing of coordinator Al Groh hasn't solved the Yellow Jackets' defensive woes, but the offense has been able to compensate. The Blue Devils, overmatched versus the ACC's better teams, will struggle to corral the running game that now has Lee and Tevin Washington behind center, and a swath of quality backs running the ball. Tech will control the clock, keeping Renfree off the field, and maintaining a cushion on the scoreboard throughout the game.
CFN Prediction: Georgia Tech 40 … Duke 28