Cecil Hurt, a sports columnist for the Tuscaloosa News, pours a truckload of salt onto Duke’s gaping wounds. (To be fair, he’s just playing up to his base).

Twenty-three points per game. Four offensive touchdowns in three conference games. A No. 68 national ranking in the NCAA scoring offense statistics.

These are the numbers that are driving Alabama fans to distraction. These are the numbers that have Crimson Tide fans pulling out their hair, or blowing hot steam out of their ears. These are the numbers that prompted several questions about play-calling at Mike Shula’s Tuesday press conference.

These are also numbers that the Duke Blue Devils yearn for. These are numbers that Duke would embrace. Duke being Duke, the Blue Devils probably wouldn’t kill for those numbers, but they would like to challenge someone to a really fierce debate in order to get them.

That’s because the Alabama point production, the cause of so much consternation in this state, would represent a 707 percent increase in Duke’s current scoring output. Duke is averaging 3.25 points per game. That’s dead last in all of Division I. The Duke offense looks up to Temple. Duke has been shut out in three of its four games, once by the Division 1-AA Richmond Spiders.

Yes, Alabama’s offensive problems are being diagnosed by thousands of fans as we speak. The situation is somewhat different at Duke, where those few individuals who care have long since moved past fretting about the offense and are instead mulling over the ethical questions involved in the football version of euthanasia.

He does give credit where credit is due, however: Duke’s comparably good defense.

There’s a chance that Duke will play well. For all their troubles this season, the Blue Devils appear to have a pretty fair defense. Duke played Wake Forest to within an inch of the Deacons’ still-undefeated life a few weeks ago before suffering a 14-13 defeat.

The optimism is appreciated. But unless Duke’s defense starts scoring touchdowns in droves, the Blue Devil offense is going to have to pick itself up off the mat and make something happen this weekend.

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