Notre Dame Football Primer: Irish Travel to Undefeated Duke

After one of the most devastating losses in the history of Notre Dame Football, the Irish must knock off #17 Duke on the road to maintain their playoff hopes.

The Fighting Irish were 3 seconds away from being the football team fans have been waiting for since 1988. The 12-team playoff format does not start until next year, so if the Irish want any shot at the 4-team playoff this season, it restarts this Saturday Night in Durham. With College GameDay following the Irish on the road, this will be one of the biggest matchups in the history of Duke Football.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, September 30th at 7:30 PM ET on ABC
  • Location: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 5-2 all-time against the Duke Blue Devils (Last Meeting 2020: Irish won 27 to 13)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -5.5

Duke Details

  • Conference: ACC
  • Head Coach: Mike Elko
  • 2023 Record: 4-0 (1-0)
  • 2022 Record: 9-4 (5-3)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 20% chance of rain, with a high of 75 degrees and a low of 59.

Duke Storylines:

Mike Elko and Duke have been a perfect fit. The former Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator has found his home in Durhman. Coach Elko built ties to the East Coast during his playing and assistant coaching days. Since taking over at Duke, Mike Elko is 13-4 and has turned one of the worst programs of all time (historically) into a top-25 program.

The former Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator has his team at 4-0 this fall. Duke has defeated Clemson 28 to 7, Lafayette 42 to 7, Northwestern 38 to 14, and UConn 41 to 7. This is arguably the best Duke team the Fighting Irish have faced since joining the ACC as a part-time member.

NFL prospect QB Riley Leonard leads the Blue Devils Offense. Through four games, Leonard is 67 for 99 (68%) for 778 yards with 2 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He has 29 attempts for 238 yards (8 yards per carry) and 4 rushing touchdowns on the ground.

Duke’s rushing attack is headlined by Jordan Waters, who has 39 carries for 258 yards (6.6 yards per attempt) with 7 rushing scores. The top receivers for the Blue Devils are Jalon Calhoun and Jordan Moore. This season, Calhoun has 20 catches for 258 yards, while Moore has 20 receptions for 246 yards.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Notre Dame must be perfect in the next seven games. The good news is that the Irish have made the playoffs with a loss back in 2020, but the bad news is that they had a win over the #1 team in the country along the way.

Thankfully, Marcus Freeman and his team have the opportunity to knock off the undefeated and 17th-ranked Duke Blue Devils. The loss against Ohio State will be in my mind until the day that I die, but I’d much rather Notre Dame face a top-20 team this week than a no-name program and hopefully get spirits back up in South Bend.

Notre Dame must score more points this week. Coach Elko is one of the best defensive minds in college football and will not make it easy. The Irish had several chances to put up more points on the board last week, and there were no “Heisman” moments from Sam Hartman or Audric Estime. The offensive line played great in the second half, but the Notre Dame Offensive had an opportunity to seal the game, and they let it slip away.

Can the Irish get more sack production? Last weekend, the difference in the game was Notre Dame’s inability to get pressure on Kyle McCord, especially without the aid of a blitz.

The secondary for the Fighting Irish may be one of the best in the country, but the Notre Dame Defensive Line has struggled by only producing 7 sacks in 5 matchups. The Blue Devils also have a great quarterback, and if he has time, the Irish are in trouble.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Duke Defense: The Fighting Irish are averaging 40 points per game, while the Blue Devils allow 9 points per matchup. It was a playoff-type matchup last week, and the Irish only mustered 14 points. Yes, it should have been enough because Ohio State was not lighting it up either, but if Gerad Parker’s offense can’t put up more touchdowns this week, the Irish will not win.

Conversely, the Blue Devils have shut teams down all season, including Clemson. But I do think Sam Hartman and the Irish Offense will bounce back against a fierce Duke Defense.

Notre Dame has the narrow edge.

Advantage: Notre Dame

Duke Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The Duke Blue Devils score 37 points per contest, while the Irish allow 13 points per game. This is one of the best offenses the Blue Devils have had in a while.

Al Golden’s defense played tremendously but did not have what it took to finish the game at the end last week.

Notre Dame’s secondary is great, but the pass rush is hurting this team, and the matchup on Saturday is even.

Advantage: Tie

Special Teams: Notre Dame’s Spencer Shrader is 3 for 7 this year, with his longest conversion at 54 yards. Unfortunately, last week, Shrader’s missed field goal was one of a laundry list of plays that cost the Irish. Meanwhile, Duke’s Todd Pelino is 5 for 7 with his longest conversion at 50 yards.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

All the energy and anticipation the Notre Dame program and fan base felt last week, will be exemplified by the Duke fans this Saturday Night. The difference between good and great coaches is the ability to refocus their team after a loss, and it is time for Marcus Freeman to motivate this team.

Notre Dame is undoubtedly the more talented team, but so was Clemson when they lost to Mike Elko and Duke in week one. What will fans see on Saturday Night? Will players feel sorry for themselves, or will they show the passion it takes to give themselves one final run at the College Football Playoffs?

The Irish will play motivated and match the energy from Duke, but it will not be an easy victory. I have Notre Dame winning by 3 points. If the team plays to their ceiling, like the second half against the Buckeyes, then they will likely be back in the top 10. However, if they struggle to get any pressure on the quarterback and let him sit in the pocket all day like Kyle McCord, then the playoff hopes will end in Durham.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Duke 24

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  1. I’m relieved that there is now an ad hoc protocol in place to avoid having only 10 players on the field.
    But I do worry about having just the one ad hoc signal, which could risk adding a 13th player when there are 12 lined up.
    The off-season will be a busy one.

  2. I’ll repeat it throughout the year. Ryan Day is an AssClown!!

    And if he starts to lose it, Notre Dame will get sympathy votes.

    What will be better right now this year is to see the entire staff step up and completely wake up.

    The talent is very much good enough to win a national championship. Better game management will bring the team to that ceiling coach Freeman talks about.

    A win over Duke and a large looking differential should be the goal. Duke could win the ACC.

    Then take care of the rest.

    Mental reset and managing the week for the Duke game will get it back on course.

    I’d love to see a rematch with AssClown. Bring Holtz and instead of coaching Day can try to fist fight LOU. That will win hearts outside of Columbus.

    1. ND lost to that assclown.
      He was able to devise a plan to get more out of a rookie QB in a loud, hostile setting than ND did wrt Sam Hartman.
      And he made Lou Holtz’s ill-advised attack look like the rantings of the tired old windbag he’s become.

  3. NDs team played their hearts out against a proven program that annually ranks among the top schools in recruiting elite talent. Many, especially their receivers, will play on Sundays. ND is getting there with a head coach and staff that prioritizes going for the best they can get instead of past lazy efforts from Kelly his last several years. What this staff does with that talent remains to be seen

    Put that playoff dream on hold for now. The best team won Saturday, despite some amazing efforts put forth by many ND players. Five years or so of elite recruiting places Ohio State among the elite. NDs four game gauntlet has started with a L. Move on! It’s up to the team and especially the coaching staff to overcome this devastating loss and prepare for Duke. I targeted this Duke road game (and now more so, with College game day headed for Durham) and @ Louisville as two of three trap games (Pitt later) as the most dangerous beside the big three. This week’s preparation must win back confidence from their team, and who can blame their doubt. It was earned by the errant O’ and D’ schemes that last couple of minutes !
    A mobile QB has given ND problems, and unlike Day, Elko will not give ND as many chances to win as tOSU doofus coach did. This week will be the ND coaches greatest challenge this season- to prepare a devastated team for their toughest road game of the year after a gut wrenching loss, assisted by a complete collapse of the entire ND coaching staff the last three minutes.
    The players deserve better! Put up or shut up, ND staff.

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