After a stretch of roughly two quarters of virtually no offense against Michigan State, the Notre Dame offense needs to offer a more consistent attack. While that should be an easier proposition when looking at this Notre Dame Duke 2016 battle, the Blue Devil defense has put up respectable numbers in their three games so far. Their main problem thus far has been trying to negate the offense’s 10 turnovers.
Duke Players to Watch
Up front, the Duke line will be led by tackle A.J. Wolf and end Dominic McDonald, who have thus far combined for 4.5 sacks in the first three games. In fact, that ability to get to the opposing passer is an area that’s shown strong improvement, with 14 sacks so far contrasting with the 17 that accounted for the entire 2015 total.
Among the linebacking contingent, Joe Giles-Harris leads this group with 25 tackles and has a knack for being around the ball. Besides trapping a trio of runners behind the line of scrimmage, he’s also collected an interception and fumble. His cohort in the middle, Ben Humphreys, is right behind him with 19 stops.
The strongest area on the Blue Devil defense is in the secondary, with leading tackler Devon Edwards someone that needs to be watched on blitz calls. Meanwhile, Breon Borders is the ballhawk of this unit, though the fact that two safeties are among the team leaders in tackles isn’t a good sign for David Cutcliffe’s squad.
Match-Ups That Notre Dame Can Exploit
Establishing the running game is what every team attempts to do in order to set up the pass. For this Notre Dame Duke contest, relying on that running game over the course of the game is probably the best course of action. That’s because it gives the Notre Dame offense the chance to relentlessly pound the Duke defenders into submission.
Looking at the scoring breakdown in the three games played by the Blue Devils, Duke has held their opponents to just 14 points during the first half. However, once intermission is over, that number jumps to 37, which means that being able to sustain their effort has been an issue for the Blue Devils.
Match-Ups Notre Dame Should Avoid
That focus on getting the running game going in this Notre Dame Duke 2016 contest will help avoid interacting with the Blue Devils’ depth in the defensive backfield. Plus, it gets Notre Dame back on track after they struggled against Michigan State, abandoning it completely when the game got out of hand.
The Irish passing game has thrived thus far and doesn’t really need to take up this challenge unless absolutely necessary. Much like the Notre Dame defense needs a confidence boost, the running game seeks to return to the more than 200 rushing yards that were gained in each of the first two contests.
The Bottom Line
In Duke’s two losses, each opponent has exploited an area of their defense. Wake Forest gained 239 yards on the ground and Northwestern picked up 320 yards through the air. The Blue Devils haven’t helped their own cause by coughing up the ball 10 times.
All of these numbers point to what should be a victory in this Notre Dame Duke matchup. However, the Blue Devils have thrived on the road since 2013, so keeping the ball away from them through the run will serve as a way to blunt that success.