Although Duke and North Carolina face very different challenges in their week four matchups with Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech, both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will need solid offensive performances to secure big wins on Saturday, former ECU and NFL coach Steve Logan said.
For the Heels, who travel to Georgia Tech, the offense-first mentality may not seem like the most obvious approach. A year ago, the Georgia Tech offense scorched UNC in Chapel Hill by scoring a league-record 68 points and rolling up nearly 600 yards of offense.
Logan admitted that the Tar Heels will need to be better against quarterback Vad Lee and his assortment of offensive weapons, but he pointed to quarterback Bryn Renner and the UNC offense as the key to the game.
"If UNC wants to win they have to score as fast as they can, as many times as they can," Logan said. "When I played against an option attack, I wanted to get two scores up. As long as I was two scores up, the other offense was sort of playing the game left handed.
The Tar Heels built a 23-0 lead on Middle Tennessee State in their first win of the season Sept. 7 by using a balanced ground attack and 339 passing yards by Renner. UNC would coast late in a 40-20 win.
In wins over Elon and Duke, the Georgia Tech offense has been even more impressive. The Yellow Jackets scored 70 points against the Phoenix on Aug. 31, and a week ago in Durham they put up 38 in an impressive victory over the Blue Devils.
Logan said he wouldn't be surprised if head coach Larry Fedora and his staff have been working on a defensive plan for the Georgia Tech offense since spring practice.
"They should be better equipped from the standpoint of having seen the offense once, both the players and the coaches," he said. "You take a week in spring ball and maybe another one in the fall to prepare for this offense. It teaches your defense what to expect and allows your scout team offense to learn how to give the best look they can."
Connette still finding his way in Duke offense
While the Tar Heels will be focusing on starting fast and trying to slow down Georgia Tech's option attack, the Blue Devils will continue to fine tune their offense under Brandon Connette, who started his first game as a full-time quarterback in Duke's 38-14 loss to Georgia Tech a week ago.
Connette played well at times against the Yellow Jackets, but the Duke offense failed to keep pace with Georgia Tech and finished with just 14 points. Connette was 15-of-28 passing for 122 yards, but he didn't throw a touchdown.
Head coach David Cutcliffe said Connette will need to be better on third down for the Duke offense to have sustained success. Against the Yellow Jackets, the Blue Devils were 3-of-14 on third down.
"That's part of what a quarterback has to do to put a good game together," Cutcliffe said of Connette's performance against Georgia Tech. "He will fight back and fight through this, and we'll see where we are."
Logan agreed, saying that the Duke offense will likely continue to undergo changes in the coming weeks.
"The Pittsburgh game is another week for Cutcliffe and his quarterback to find and hone in on what Connette is capable of," Logan said. "He doesn't have enough game snaps yet for Cutcliffe to know exactly what sort of calls to make consistently. Look for improvement in that area."
Defensively, Logan said the Blue Devils will likely be relieved to defend Pittsburgh's pro-style offense.