The stage is set for a potentially emphatic Duke football victory in Week 3 when the Blue Devils (2-0, 0-0 ACC) host the North Carolina A&T Aggies (0-2, 0-0 Big South) at 6:00 p.m. ET Saturday on ACC Network Extra.
For starters, the Blue Devils distributed every ticket to the 40,004-capacity Wallace Wade Stadium for the first time since the 2018 Duke team's Week 4 win over North Carolina Central. However, that game also coincided with free-ticket-galore Durham and Employee Appreciation Night, and the announced attendance was only 25,132.
Still, there's something to be said for the enthusiasm currently permeating the program and its fanbase under first-year head coach Mike Elko, an instantly likable leader. He has made friends with Duke undergraduates via free jerseys for all, plus an expanded Wade Wackos student section.
So while fans might not completely pack the house against the Aggies, one would think it'll be rocking at kickoff with significantly more folks than usual in the stands as the Blue Devils already look to tie their 2021 win total under David Cutcliffe.
As for the difference in talent between Duke and North Carolina A&T, well, it's likely to reflect the difference in their results through Week 2.
In Elko's first and only home game thus far, the squad didn't allow Temple even to sniff the red zone, much less put any points on the board, on its way to a 30-0 shutout. Then in Week 2, a gritty 31-23 win at Northwestern, the Duke defense bent down the stretch but didn't break when it mattered most on the Wildcats' last-minute drive.
On the other side of the ball, the Blue Devils have sizzled early yet averaged only eight points per game after halftime. With that in mind, even if Duke enters the break with a sizeable lead on Saturday night, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the offense keep its foot on the gas for a spell to nix its trend of low second-half outputs.
Meanwhile, the Aggies lost their two games to date — against fellow FCS programs North Carolina Central and North Dakota State — by a combined score of 71-16.
Perhaps the Aggies' best hope is for the Blue Devils not to take them seriously. But a Duke letdown feels unlikely when factoring in the anticipated large crowd and surging energy level under Elko's command.
Last season, Duke defeated North Carolina A&T in Durham, 42-17, in the second game of their all-time series. In their first meeting two years earlier, the Blue Devils prevailed at home, 45-13.
PREDICTION: Duke 52, North Carolina A&T 3
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