DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Duke knows the danger of looking past against an opponent with a poor record and some befuddling losses — a team like Baylor.
Not long ago, the Blue Devils were the ones being looked past.
Duke plays host to the Bears on Saturday hoping to earn its first 3-0 start since 2014.
The Blue Devils (2-0) have averaged an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 50½ points and 531 total yards while earning a pair of blowout victories over North Carolina Central and Northwestern.
Center Austin Davis, a native Texan who grew up about 1½ hours from Baylor’s campus in Waco, says the Blue Devils “try not to ever look at” their opponents’ past results.
“We focus on the players, because when people kind of sleep on you, and don’t give you credit, those are the teams that can strike,” Davis said. “Just like people didn’t believe in us last year, and we surprised certain teams (Notre Dame and North Carolina).
“But you’ve always got to look out for a team that’s struggling a little bit, because you never know when they can catch their stride,” he added. “A team like Baylor, (which) has talent all across the board. I’m a guy from Texas, so I’ve seen what they can do.”
It’s been a rough start for new Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who left Temple to take over in the wake of the school’s sexual assault scandal . The Bears (0-2) opened with a 48-45 loss to a Liberty program in its final FCS season and followed that with a 17-10 loss to a UTSA team that had never beaten a Power Five opponent.
That left Baylor winless through its opening two games for the first time since 2003, and a two-touchdown underdog to Duke.
“I think this is what our kids need, to be quite honest. I think they need to play a game that they’re not picked to win,” Rhule said. “Where’s the pressure right now? Go play. I see the weight of the world on them and I tell them, ‘Go play. Let’s just go play and have fun.’ That doesn’t mean we’re not going to work. … We’re going to do everything right. That’s what I mean by “process,” but go have fun and play.”
Some things to know about the Baylor-Duke game:
JONES’ ROLL: Duke QB Daniel Jones became just the second player in program history with 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing in the same game, throwing for 305 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 108 and two scores in a 41-17 rout of Northwestern. He’ll face a Baylor defense that ranks 115th nationally, allowing 480 total yards per game.
BAYLOR’S QB CHANGE: The Bears are making a switch at quarterback, going with sophomore Zach Smith and having freshman Charlie Brewer as his backup. That move had been announced before it was disclosed that Anu Solomon, a graduate transfer from Arizona who started the first two games, went through the team’s concussion protocol this week. Smith started the final four games in 2016 as a freshman and won the Cactus Bowl.
DUKE’S SURGE: The only time in the 2000s that the Blue Devils won their first three games came in 2014, when they started 4-0, and even the 2013 team that captured an unlikely ACC Coastal Division title lost in Week 3 to Georgia Tech. Before ’14, the last Duke team to do it was the 1994 group that opened 7-0 on its way to the Hall of Fame Bowl.
THE SERIES: This marks Baylor’s first road game against a non-Big 12 Power Five school since 2009, when the Bears visited Wake Forest. The Blue Devils will return the trip next year. It’s just the second meeting between the schools and the first since 1958.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)