Duke vs Georgia Tech football first look: Odds, top story line and players to watch

Ben McKeown/AP

Georgia Tech cleared out its athletic leadership last week and, in the process, rediscovered success on the football field.

After head football coach Geoff Collins and athletic director Todd Stansbury were fired last Monday, the struggling Yellow Jackets beat then-No. 24 Pittsburgh, 26-21, Saturday night with interim coach Brent Key on the sidelines.

From the depths of blowout losses to Clemson, Mississippi and UCF in September, Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-1 ACC) started October with a win.

Now its Duke’s job to halt the Yellow Jackets’ success when the ACC Coastal Division teams play Saturday at 4 p.m. in Atlanta.

The Blue Devils (4-1, 1-0 ACC) ended their 13-game ACC losing streak with a 38-17 pounding of Virginia at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday night.

After three consecutive losing seasons, the Blue Devils’ resurgence under first-year head coach Mike Elko has them approaching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2018.

A win over Georgia Tech, a program that struggled under Collins, was always part of any path to six wins for Duke. With Collins no longer coaching the Yellow Jackets, and given how Georgia Tech played at Pitt, that task is tougher for the Blue Devils.

Three Duke players to watch

Riley Leonard, QB: The sophomore continues to play smart football for the Blue Devils. He’s fourth in the ACC in yards per pass attempt (9.4) and is No. 1 in the league in completion percentage (72%). He’s thrown seven touchdown passes with two interceptions.

Jaylen Coleman, RB: Paced Duke’s solid rushing attack against Virginia with 97 yards on 19 carries. But he was slowed by a lower body injury late in the game. His availability for the Georgia Tech game is important.

Shaka Heyward, LB: Turned in his best game of the season against Virginia, recording 13 tackles (including one tackle for loss) with a pass breakup. His Pro Football Focus score for run defense was an exceptional 91.2.

Three Georgia Tech players to watch

Jeff Sims, QB: Sophomore has turned in a mediocre season thus far, completing only 56.5% of his passes and averaging 168.2 passing yards per game. In upset of Pitt, Sims completed just 11 of 26 passes for 102 yards.

Hassan Hall, RB: Senior leads the Yellow Jackets in rushing with 260 yards in five games. He’s averaging 5.91 yards per attempt and 52 yards per game. Ran for 157 yards against Pitt.

Ayinde Eley, LB: Senior recorded 2.5 tackles for loss against Pittsburgh, giving him a team-best 8.5 in five games for the Yellow Jackets. He leads the ACC with 56 tackles this season after recording 14 against the Panthers.

Vegas betting odds

Duke opened as a 3.5-point favorite over Georgia Tech on Sunday. The over-under total is 55.

Duke at Georgia Tech game and TV info

Who: Duke (4-1, 1-0) at Georgia Tech (2-3, 1-1)

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

TV: Regional Sports Network (Bally Sports South in N.C.)

Stream: Bally Sports Plus