Northwestern-Duke Preview

(AP) - Duke is letting its play on the field do the talking against No. 23 Northwestern - preferably in the end zone.

The Wildcats (2-0) are one of four teams yet to allow a touchdown. After they shut out an FCS team, one of their players said he expects to do it again this week.

After last week's 41-0 rout of Eastern Illinois, Wildcats defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo told the Chicago Tribune, "We expect to have a shutout next week."

Duke (2-0) has averaged 46.0 points in routs of two outmanned teams, and ranks ninth nationally with 592 yards per game.

Tight end Braxton Deaver said Tuesday that the Blue Devils ''don't listen to stuff like that'' but added, ''We're going to execute and we're going to put points on the board.''

The Blue Devils were already aware of the comments made by Odenigbo but took the high road in responding to them, though they did elicit a few tweets in response from running back Shaun Wilson.

He called Odenigbo's strong words ''a gamble'' and advised him to ''mean what you say and say what you mean.''

Coach David Cutcliffe defused the possibility of a trash-talk battle, saying this is a case of ''two guys that are proud of their programs.''

Deaver said ''if I played defense for the other team, I'd probably say the same thing.

''I'm not going to walk up to (Odenigbo) and say, `Hey, what are you talking about?''' Deaver added. ''It's one of those things where we're going to line up, we're going to see the plays called, we're going to execute and we're going to get in the end zone.''

Quarterback Thomas Sirk, who ranks sixth nationally with 379.0 total yards per game, is coming off a four-touchdown game - three passing, one rushing - against N.C. Central. He said the Blue Devils aren't focusing on what the Wildcats say - but how they play.

Northwestern has the nation's third-best defense, allowing 189 yards per game. The Wildcats rank fourth nationally in scoring defense, allowing only a pair of field goals in a 16-6 win over then-No. 21 Stanford in the opener, then followed that with their rout of Eastern Illinois.

It's the first time Northwestern held consecutive opponents without a touchdown since 1958, and marked the Wildcats' first shutout since beating Northeastern in 2007.

Cutcliffe said he included Northwestern on his ballot in the coaches' poll because ''they have earned their opportunity to be ranked.''

The Wildcats received no votes in the preseason AP poll before springing into the rankings after two impressive wins.

"Three weeks ago, I think the only thing written (about them) was negative," coach Pat Fitzgerald said of his players. "I asked them (then) not to focus on those distractions. I'd ask them to do the same thing (now). The only thing that matters ranking-wise is how you rank against your best self."

For the Blue Devils, a victory might be enough to put them back in the Top 25. They cracked the rankings in each of the past two seasons.

''It's one of those things where, they execute really well, we execute really well,'' Deaver said. ''Which playmakers are going to step up and make the plays? That's going to be the difference.''

Though the matchup between Northwestern's defense and Duke's offense figures to draw the most attention, the other side of the ball will also see a battle of wills. The Wildcats rank 12th nationally with 284.5 rushing yards per game, while Duke has limited its opponents to 39.5 to rank second. Five Northwestern players tallied career-high rushing totals against Eastern Illinois, not including starting tailback Justin Jackson, who has 212 yards through two games.

These schools have split 16 meetings with Northwestern winning eight of the last 10, including a 24-20 road victory in the most recent Sept. 6, 2008.

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