With their sights set on a 10-win season and a New Year’s Six bowl game, the no. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish head to Tobacco Road this weekend to take on the Duke Blue Devils. Game time is at 7:30 EST on Saturday, November 9 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. The game can be seen on the ACC Network.
Current odds list Notre Dame as 8-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 51.5 points. Click here to check out a full list of the Week 11 college football odds and previews of all the marquee games.
Notre Dame saw any hopes of returning to the College Football Playoff disappear two weeks ago when they lost to Michigan. At times last week, the Irish certainly looked like a team with nothing left to play for this season. Notre Dame actually trailed Virginia Tech late and needed a touchdown with less than 30 seconds left in the game to survive with a 21-20 win. It’ll be interesting to see if the Irish will play with a little more energy this week. Despite their CFP hopes being gone, the Irish can still win 10 games this season. On the other hand, this week’s game is Notre Dame’s last against a team that isn’t a traditional rival, so they could be looking ahead to games with Navy, Boston College, and Stanford.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils are still working to become bowl eligible and save a season that could be getting away from them. Duke won three in a row after starting the season with a loss to Alabama. But they’ve dropped three of their last four games, including a close loss to rival North Carolina in their last game. At 4-4, the Blue Devils need two more wins in their final four games to make it seven bowl appearances in the last eight years. Even with three of their final four games at home, that won’t be easy with Wake Forest and Miami left on the schedule. If the Blue Devils can pull off a surprise win, it would be huge for their bowl hopes and give them a much-needed boost in confidence heading down the stretch.
This is a rare meeting on the football field for Duke and Notre Dame, who have only crossed paths five previous times since their first meeting in 1958. David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils shocked Brian Kelly’s Irish with a 38-35 win in South Bend in 2016, so some of the older Notre Dame players could be looking for revenge. For what it’s worth, this will be Notre Dame’s first trip to Durham since 1961, a game the Blue Devils won 37-13.
As mentioned, I’m a little worried about Notre Dame’s mindset coming into this game. But I think Kelly will have his team fired up following last week’s near loss. Talent-wise, the Irish should have a considerable advantage in this game. I expect the Blue Devils to put up a fight, but with the spread in single digits, I like Notre Dame to cover.
The Duke offense has become a serious problem for the Blue Devils in their last two games. They’ve failed to reach 20 points in back-to-back games against Virginia and North Carolina. There was also that game last month against Pitt when they turned it over six times. Those issues have continued with Duke turning it over five times against Virginia and four more times last time out against North Carolina.
The Blue Devils just aren’t dynamic enough offensively to overcome even one or two turnovers in a game. Quarterback Quentin Harris had some success early in the season because of his athleticism. But he’s been atrocious as a passer over the past month. He only completed 50% of his passes in his last four games while also taking 11 sacks during that span. Even with Harris helping as a runner, the Blue Devils are averaging less than four yards per carry on the season. Those issues aren’t likely to improve against Notre Dame, a team that should be able to overpower them at the line of scrimmage and continue to make things difficult for Harris.
For what it’s worth, the Duke defense has fared well this year, especially considering how many times the offense has turned it over. The team’s losses to Pitt and UNC were both close and could have gone the other way. However, keeping things close against Notre Dame is a different kind of challenge. Quarterback Ian Book has had a few rough games recently, but he’s capable of bouncing back. There’s also a chance the Irish will get running back Tony Jones back from injury this week. Jones is averaging 6.5 yards per carry this season. He helps give the Notre Dame offense more balance and should help take some of the heat off Book.
In the end, I can’t get past Duke’s recent turnover problems. The Irish are more than good enough to punish a team with such poor ball security. Even if you take those away, I’m on the fence at best about the Blue Devils. I’ll assume the turnovers keep coming and Notre Dame wins this game going away.