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Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction

Brandon Radcliff

Brandon Radcliff

Louisville will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season on Friday night as the No. 7 Cardinals return to action at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to take on Duke.

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The Blue Devils will be looking for their first ACC win and will come in 3-3 overall. The first half of the season for David Cutcliffe’s team was highlighted by a thrilling victory at Notre Dame and lowlighted by a home loss to a Virginia team that was 1-3 coming in. Duke defeated Army last week, 13-6.

Louisville’s ACC title hopes hit a road block two weeks ago with a gut-wrenching 42-36 loss at Clemson, but the Cardinals remain in the hunt for a potential berth in the College Football Playoff. Louisville also will be in front of its home crowd for the first time since a 63-20 drubbing of Florida State on Sept. 17. The Cardinals beat Duke 40-3 in 2002 in the only other meeting between the schools.

Duke at Louisville

Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Louisville –35

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Three Things to Watch

1. Lamar Jackson
The only thing keeping the Louisville quarterback from winning the Heisman Trophy at this point might be an act of God. Through five games this season, Jackson has accounted for more than 2,300 total yards and an ungodly 28 total touchdowns. Stopping Jackson might be impossible, but Clemson showed two weeks ago that he can be contained.

The Blue Devils have been pretty good defensively this season, ranking in the top 40 nationally when it comes to fewest yards and points allowed. Senior defensive tackle A.J. Wolf leads the team with five sacks. Duke however, struggled mightily in its only contest against an elite quarterback as Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer put up 441 total yards and three touchdowns. Duke also has lost DeVon Edwards, its best cover cornerback, for the season. If the Blue Devils can’t do better against Jackson, they’re in for a long night.

2. Running Backs
Just about everyone on the Louisville roster, or at the least the offense, has played in the shadow of Jackson, but running back Brandon Radcliffe, a senior, is in the midst of a career year. Radcliffe is on pace for about 1,200 yards rushing and currently leads the ACC, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Radcliffe has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three of the Cardinals’ five games and will be facing a good Duke rushing defense on Saturday.

On the other sideline, senior Jela Duncan is Duke’s biggest offensive weapon. After missing action in a loss to Virginia, Duncan returned the lineup for the Blue Devils in last week’s win over Army and is expected to have a bigger role this week. Duncan is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and leads the team with four touchdowns. In Duke’s three wins this season, he is averaging six yards per carry compared to just 3.9 in the three losses.

3. Turnovers
For Duke to have any real chance at making this one interesting on Friday night, the Blue Devils will probably need to win the turnover battle and win it decisively. Doing so however, has hardly been a strong suit for Duke, who is an ACC-worst minus-3 when it comes to turnover margin. In Duke’s two victories over FBS teams, the Blue Devils have just one turnover in each game. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has seven total touchdowns and just one interception in Duke’s three wins this season compared to just three touchdowns and seven picks in the Blue Devils’ three losses.

Turnovers have been an issue for Louisville as well. The Cardinals have turned the ball over three times in four of their five games this season. Fortunately for Louisville, it hasn’t had much trouble taking the ball away either. Sophomore cornerback Jaire Alexander leads Louisville with three interceptions on the season, including two off Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Linebacker James Hearns has already forced four fumbles this season.

Final Analysis

Bouncing back from its first loss of the season shouldn’t be too difficult for Louisville. The Cardinals have had an extra week to prepare and will be in front of their home crowd. Like Louisville with Bobby Petrino, Duke is a well-coached team. The Blue Devils however, lack the offensive firepower to keep up with the prolific Louisville attack. They also lack the athletes on defense to significantly slow it down.

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Prediction: Louisville 52, Duke 13

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.