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Army at Duke Preview: Monken and the Black Knights start season in Durham

The Black Knights and Blue Devils will clash in a nationally televised game in Durham, marking the first time Army has opened against a Power 5 school in 13 years.

Army v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Under the direction of Jeff Monken last year, the Army West Point Black Knights had their best season in more than two decades, finishing with a 10-3 record. They defeated San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl and captured the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy for the first time since 1996.

One of those 10 wins came against Duke on Nov. 11, as Army topped the Blue Devils 21-16 in West Point, capping off a six-game winning streak for Monken’s side.

Duke is looking for revenge, and hoping the confines of Wallace Wade Stadium will turn the tide in their favor. Army is hoping to have another stellar season with Monken at the helm.

Here’s how things are shaping up as the two teams who share a singular affinity for the head basketball coach in Durham prepare to face each other in week one.

The Basics

Kickoff: 7 p.m. (EST) on Friday, Aug. 31.

Watch: ESPNU – Roy Philpott and Tom Ramsey are in the booth. The game is also being shown on American Forces Network for the personnel deployed around the globe.

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium – Durham, N.C.

Rankings: In Bill Connelly’s S&P+ rankings, Duke is 38th and Army is 83rd (for an explainer on S&P+, click here). Duke received five votes in the Coaches Poll and Army received one. Neither received votes in the AP Poll.

Spread: Most books have Duke favored by 12 to 14 points. Connelly expects Army to cover, but not by much.

Last Time Around

Army beat Duke 21-16 at Michie Stadium in West Point on Nov. 11, 2017. Ahmad Bradshaw accounted for 138 yards of total offense for Army and scored the Black Knights’ final touchdown. Elijah Riley led Army’s defense, tallying 1.5 sacks, an interception and five tackles. Duke was led by Daniel Jones’ 186 yards of offense and Koby Quansah’s 13 tackles. For Duke, the loss proved to be a turning point in the season. The Blue Devils didn’t lose another game and finished with a 7-6 record, including a win in the Quick Lane Bowl over Northern Illinois.

Friday will mark the 26th meeting between Duke and Army. The Blue Devils have the upper hand in the series with 13 wins. Army has 11 wins and the two sides also tied once in 1979.

X-Factors

Kelvin Hopkins Jr.: The junior quarterback takes the reins from Bradshaw, who leaves West Point as one of the greatest rushers in school history as he accumulated 3,020 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns from 2015 to 2017. Hopkins isn’t a total rookie at this however. The Charlotte, N.C. native played in seven games last year, rushing for 40 yards and throwing for 76 more. Hopkins helped Army beat Temple last season, tossing the game-tying touchdown to Jermaine Adams with the clock winding down. Hopkins will surely be tested in the first start of his collegiate career against a Duke defense that returns a handful of starters, including All-ACC talents in cornerback Mark Gilbert and linebacker Joe Giles-Harris. Duke was ranked 48th last year in run defense.

Duke’s D-Line: Army returns just one starter on its offensive line in senior center Bryce Holland. Anchoring the Blue Devils’ defensive line is redshirt senior Edgar Cerenord, who checks in a 6-foot-1 and 305 pounds. He’s played 882 career snaps and tallied a pair of sacks as a starter last season. Joining him in the trenches are Victor Dimukeje (7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception as a freshman), Drew Jordan (three sacks as a freshman), Tre Hornbuckle (12 tackles for loss as a sophomore), Trevon McSwain (3.5 career sacks), four-star recruit Tahj Rice, and 6-foot-2, 310-pound sophomore Derrick Tangelo. This group is big, nasty, deep and experienced and could give Army fits on the front line.

They Said It

Army coach Jeff Monken, via GoArmyWestPoint.com: “With our offense, they play Georgia Tech every year. They have a plan. They do a really good job defending the option. Not only scheming it, but executing it on the field. And then offensively, just the opportunity for them to see how we’ve attacked them defensively and come up with new schemes each year. They have such a talented quarterback in that (Daniel) Jones kid. I really admire his ability and his decision making and his leadership. And he’s got a bunch of guys to throw it to.”

Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, via Duke Basketball Report: “We’re aware of (Army’s) success last year. We’re looking forward to it. We certainly want to start off with a win. They were a 10-win team last year and we certainly expect them to be pretty similar to what they were last year. It’s a big opportunity to show where we are, what we’ve been working on.”

Army linebacker Cole Christiansen, via The Times Herald-Record: “This is a statement year for us to legitimize our team as a real force in college football. We don’t want people to feel the past two years were a fluke. This year is a statement year to prove that we are better than ever.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe, via The Duke Chronicle: “Well I don’t really love opening up with an option team because it creates some issues. We have less days than we’ve ever had with this new model of preseason, so you’re trying to get your team ready for the season, but we’ve had to interrupt part of that because we’re opening with an option team. If I had my preference, I would never open with an option team.”

Fun Fact

Duke vs. Army will be a family affair for Jeremy and Julian McDuffie. The two are brothers, but will be suiting up for opposing teams. Jeremy, a senior Duke safety, had 58 tackles, three interceptions and nine passes defended as a junior. Julian is a freshman defensive back for Army.

The McDuffies grew up in Snellville, Ga. and played their prep ball at Shiloh High School. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, the McDuffies are two of 17 players from Gwinnett County in Georgia that will play in Friday night’s game. The Black Knights have seven players from the area while Duke has 10.

The Gouge

>> Duke’s starting kicker, Collin Wareham, has never kicked in a collegiate game. The walk-on kicker won the job in spring ball, according to the News & Observer.

>> Army hasn’t opened its season against a Power 5 school since 2005. That year, a ranked Boston College team defeated the Black Knights 44-7 to start the season. Then a sophomore, current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan saw action late in that game, completing seven-of-eight passes for 83 yards.

>> Duke linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys are the only active duo in the ACC to have 200 or more career tackles each. Giles-Harris begins the year with 232 and Humphreys with 207.

>> Both natives of Charlotte, N.C., junior Army safety Jaylon McClinton played against Duke junior quarterback Daniel Jones in high school. McClinton told The Times Herald-Record, “(Jones) understands defenses… He always gave us a problem on both the field and the court. He’s a great guy to play against.”

>> Duke will have two different long-snappers, with Ben Wyatt on punts and John Taylor on field goals and extra points.

>> Duke allowed an average of just 3.46 points in fourth quarters last year, which ranked fourth in all of FBS.

The Threads

Prediction

Army covers the spread and then some, but it’s not quite enough to beat the Blue Devils in Durham. Duke wins, 27-24.

*Update*: After watching this hype video from the official Army West Point account, I have changed my mind. If home field is worth three points, well then General Schwarzkopf is worth at least a touchdown. Army wins, 30-27.