Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish face Blue Devils in 1st Conference Matchup

After the most tumultuous offseason in college football history, it appears there will be Notre Dame Football in 2020. The Irish will face the Duke Blue Devils as temporary members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The sidelines have been painted, and although small, there will be a contingent of fans in the stadium this Saturday. Yes, the long-term future is uncertain, but there will be gold helmets running out of the Notre Dame tunnel this weekend.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: September 12th at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Location: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana
  • Matchup History: The Irish are 4-2 all-time against the Duke Blue Devils (Last Meeting 2019: Notre Dame won 38 to 7)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -20.5

Weather Forecast

The current forecast for GameDay shows a 20% chance of rain with a high of 74 degrees and a low of 58.

Duke Details:

  • Conference: ACC (No Divisions in 2020)
  • Head Coach: David Cutcliffe
  • 2019 Record: 5-7 (3-5 in ACC)
  • 2018 Record: 8-5 (3-5)

Duke Storylines:

Blue Devils had success in South Bend last visit. In 2016, David Cutcliffe led his team into Notre Dame Stadium and escaped with a 38-35 victory. Circumstances have drastically changed since that season, but for die-hard Notre Dame fans, a win in South Bend this weekend would help ease the pain just a little.

The Duke Blue Devils need to make significant improvements from a season ago if they want any hope of upsetting a Notre Dame team that dismantled them in their own backyard.

Underwhelming 2019 season. After coming off back-to-back bowl appearances in 2017 and 2018, Duke took a step backward last fall. David Cutcliffe is looking to have a bounce-back year in Durham, where he has been known to get the most out of his players and quarterbacks. Do not forget Cutcliffe has coached and mentored Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Daniel Jones.

Chase Brice named Duke starting quarterback. The Clemson transfer will be leading the Blue Devils into Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday. Brice is a dual-threat quarterback who has totaled 1,023 passing yards for nine touchdowns and four interceptions as the backup behind Trevor Lawrence the past two seasons. The junior will face the biggest challenge of his career in South Bend this week.

Offensively, the Duke Blue Devils will return their leading rusher in Deon Jackson, top wide receiver Jalon Calhoun, and top tight end Noah Gray from a season ago.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Limited Capacity for Notre Dame Stadium. For now, college football is moving forward. The University recently announced that only students, faculty, staff, and family members will be allowed in Notre Dame Stadium. Just months ago, it did not look like there would be a season, so the fact that even a small number will be permitted in the stadium is unbelievable.

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Ian Book and OC Tommy Rees headline Offense. Irish fans got a glimpse into this duo’s future during the bowl game in December, but the real test will be this season. Ian Book had solid numbers last fall with 34 passing touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns, and only six interceptions. However, there is still a ton of room for improvement, notably with his completion percentage, which finished at 60%.

There will be many new faces at the skill positions on offense, and fans should be excited to see the players that emerge. If Ian Book can build off his successes in 2019 and become a dominant quarterback, he just may become the 8th Heisman winner in school history.

Will Clark Lea’s Defense continue to dominate? The Notre Dame Defense has been consistent for the past two seasons under Defense Coordinator Clark Lea. His defense plays with intensity, passion, and a high football IQ by always seeking turnovers. The depth will be a huge advantage in 2020, as many players will be fighting for playing time across several positions.

Head to Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Duke Defense: The Fighting Irish averaged 37 points per game last fall, while the Blue Devils gave up 29 points per game. When the two programs squared off last season, Notre Dame put up 469 yards of total offense. It is uncertain what the Irish Offense will look like with so many key departures and injury to Kevin Austin Jr., but I still expect Ian Book to put up a bunch of points this weekend.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Duke Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Duke averaged 25 points per game last fall, while the Irish Defense held opponents to just 18 points per game. Clark Lea’s Defense is loaded with talent and can substitute fresh players off the bench, several of which would be starting at other Division 1 programs.

The Blue Devils announced Chase Brice as their starting quarterback on Sunday evening but may use various quarterbacks. Regardless of who is under center, it is going to be tough to get into the endzone.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Special Teams: The Irish return kicker Jonathan Doerer off an impressive season where he made 17 of 20 attempts, including 2 for 2 over 50+ yards. The Duke Blue Devils will be deciding between freshman kicker Charlie Ham or senior Jack Driggers this weekend; neither kicker has recorded an attempt.

There is no clear advantage in this category.

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Tie

My Prediction:

This game has the potential to shape up like the matchup last fall in Durham, North Carolina. The Irish are the far superior team in this contest and should take control of the game early. It will be interesting to see how fast the Irish can shake off the rust and get things in a rhythm offensively.

The football programs that competed on Labor Day Weekend played with tremendous passion and effort. Even though stadiums have been limited, players have appreciated playing this game more than ever before. For Notre Dame this weekend, expect them to play with energy and enthusiasm from the start. I have the Irish winning this matchup by three touchdowns.

Prediction: Notre Dame 34 Duke 13

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