Skip to main content

Duke Blue Devils vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly

Notre Dame fans waited nine months for the football season to start. In 13 days, the hopes and dreams of the Fighting Irish faithful were essentially gone.

Image placeholder title

The College Football Playoff is no longer a possibility and at 1-2 Notre Dame will have to be perfect the rest of the way to qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl. And the only way to be perfect is to win this week when Duke comes to town.

The Blue Devils have their own set of problems. They also are 1-2 and have struggled offensively in their last two games. Head coach David Cutcliffe is an outstanding offensive mind and will do all he can to turn things around. But when quarterback Thomas Sirk went down with his third Achilles tear, the challenge to create a competent offense became very difficult.

The Irish have won three of the four meetings with the Blue Devils with the only Duke win coming in 1961.

Duke at Notre Dame

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -21

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Three Things to Watch

1. The Much-Maligned Notre Dame Defense

The statistics tell the story of the Irish defense — 99th against the run, 84th against the pass, 102nd in total defense, one of only two FBS programs without a sack. The ND defense was on the field a lot in the middle of Saturday's game due to the ineptitude of the offense. But when the offense was at its worst, so was the defense and that combination led to Michigan State scoring 35 points in 20 minutes of game action. Duke is not a productive offensive team, so if the Notre Dame defense is going to gain some positive momentum, this would be the week.

2. Duke Turnovers

Giving the ball back to the other team has been a big problem for the Blue Devil offense. They’ve not only turned it over; they’ve turned it over in big spots. Down 7-0 late in the first quarter to Northwestern, quarterback Daniel Jones threw an interception in Wildcat territory. Even worse, with the score tied in the third, Jones fumbled at the Northwestern 17-yard line. Duke’s 10 giveaways rank 123rd in the country. Duke is 57th nationally in total offense, yet they are 95th in scoring offense and that is despite scoring 49 points on North Carolina Wesleyan in the season opener. If Duke gives the Notre Dame offense extra opportunities, this game will not be close.

3. Notre Dame Offensive Line

The Irish front did not play well against Michigan State. While Duke may not be as physical in the front seven as the Spartans, this is a group that has been pretty good so far. The Blue Devils have controlled the run this year and their 14 sacks ranks third nationally. Getting the running game going is important for Notre Dame, but so is protecting quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Irish want to achieve offensive balance and it is up to the offensive line to do their job in both aspects.

Final Analysis

Notre Dame Logo

Notre Dame is far more talented than Duke. The primary issue for the Fighting Irish going into this game is motivation. Will they be ready to play or are they stuck in woe-is-me mode like many of their fans? If ND comes out fired up and focused, this will be an Irish blowout. There are mismatches everywhere, the greatest being the comparison of the two quarterbacks. But if the Irish are not determined and continue to make mistakes and miss assignments, Duke has just enough talent — especially defensively — to hang around for a while. I do think the players will come out with good effort, but it won’t necessarily sustain and there won't be an enormous amount of energy in the building to spur them on. Notre Dame will win, and probably comfortably, but it won’t be a truly dominating performance.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Duke 17

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.