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Duke Blue Devils vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Odds - Pick ATS

Duke Blue Devils (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish(1-2 SU, 1-2ATS)
College Football Week 4
Date/Time: Saturday, September 24th, 3:30 PM
Where: Notre Dame Stadium
TV: NBC
by Mike Mann, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Duke +21 /ND -21
Over/Under Total: 58.5

The Duke Blue Devils head west to take on Notre Dame in a Saturday afternoon battle between two teams that have both started their seasons with a disappointing record of 1-2.

After routing North Carolina Central 49-6 in week one Duke has dropped two straight by double-digits, losing 24-14 at home to Wake Forest in week two and then falling this past Saturday to Northwestern 24-13. Losing to Wake was especially disheartening as the Demon Deacons had gone just 2-19 in their last 21 ACC games and their point total of 24 against the Blue Devils was the second highest amount of the points they’ve scored in their past 30 games. With the back-to-back losses Duke finds themselves with a record under .500 for the first time since 2011 with not much hope in sight, especially with team leader and originally expected starting quarterback Thomas Sirk now having been ruled out for the year after reinjuring the Achilles he ruptured last season.

The return of Sirk was supposed to be a sort of life preserver for the offense but now that the air has been let out of that anticipation, fans in Durham may be worrying that their football team is heading back to their ways of the past. Before their resurgence in 2013, Duke football had suffered through eighteen consecutive losing seasons, but in the three years since had compiled a record of 27-13 (getting at least eight wins in each) and last year achieving their first bowl victory since 1960. Considering their remaining schedule the football revival has likely flatlined, with next week’s game against Virginia the only game left that they will be favored in for the rest of the season and tough conference road trips awaiting them in four of their last six games.

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There were expected to be some hiccups on the offensive side of the ball, with a new coordinator bringing in his own system while also having to replace the productivity lost by the graduation of running back Shaq Powell and wide receiver Max McCaffrey. Even with the roster departings, there is only so much you can excuse such porous play for a Power 5 conference team. One glaring reason for their recent struggles are the significant issues their offense has faced since posting big numbers in their soft season opener. Quarterback Daniel Jones has thrown for two touchdowns and two interceptions this season, but both touchdowns were against NC Central and the interceptions against Wake Forest and Northwestern, while running back Jela Duncan ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries in week one but since has averaged under four yards a carry with 20 rushes for 78 yards and 1 touchdown over their past two games. And it’s not like they are getting a lot of point production out of their special teams either, with placekicker AJ Reed having missed all three of his field goal attempts along with an extra point to start the year so far. Not all hope is lost though, as there is still room for optimism that the offense could fix their issues this week, as they get to go up against Notre Dame defense coordinator Brian VanGorder, who appears to be getting dumber by the second.

The most lasting image from Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan State on Saturday was Irish head coach Brian Kelly yelling at VanGorder on the sidelines as TV cameras zoomed in and clearly saw him asking ‘”What the {expletive} are you doing?!’” The following day Kelly’s Twitter account ‘accidentally’ liked a tweet someone had written asking the team to fire VanGorder, with the message adding in the disheartening stat that in the past five games against Power 5 opponents the Notre Dame defense has allowed 23 red zone trips that have resulted in 19 touchdowns and 4 field goals. To add further insult, in their last four games that don’t include their week two cakewalk against Nevada, Notre Dame allowed at least 36 points in each while letting up an average of over 41 points per. With last week’s loss to Michigan State the Irish have now gone 2-19 in their last 21 games against teams ranked in the top 13 of the AP pool, and until VanGorder is fired Notre Dame fans will be stuck watching the same defensive inferiority and inefficiency on a weekly basis unless Kelly or the school itself finally has enough and gets rid of their disastrous defensive coordinator that looks and coaches like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite had a severely less intelligent brother.

The Spartan game started well for the Irish, with the team leading 7-0 after the first quarter thanks to a 10 play/91 yard drive that culminated in a 14 yard touchdown run by quarterback DeShone Kizer. Early in the second quarter the Irish had all the momentum and had just forced the Michigan State offense into a three and out and had them punting from inside their own 20, but then disaster struck when Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin for some reason got too close an unreturnable punt and had the ball bounce off of his foot for a fumble that the Spartans quickly recovered. Sensing a chance to seize control of the game Michigan State went for it all on the next play which worked to perfection, as quarterback Tyler O’Connor hit Donnie Corley for a 38 yard touchdown and with the subsequent two point conversation the Spartans took a lead they would never surrender, scoring 36 consecutive points against a cluelessly coached defense before finally taking out Notre Dame in South Bend, 36-28.

While the Irish defense was turning into a sieve this past Saturday, the offense at least had some positives to take away from the loss. Quarterback DeShone Kizer continued his stellar season, throwing for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns while also getting in the end zone twice with two rushing scores, bringing his 2016 season total to 715 yards passing on 50/79 passing, a 9/2 TD-INT ratio along with four scores on the ground. He was certainly glad to have his one experienced target back in wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., who returned to the playing field after missing time due to a concussion suffered against Texas in week one and contributed five catches for 95 yards. Another plus was the continued progression of sophomore wide receiver Equanimous St. Brown, who now leads the team in catches (15), receiving yards (243) and touchdown receptions (3) on the season thus far and with the lack of playmakers at his position around him, could find himself starting on a weekly basis. Unfortunately there was only so much Kizer could do, especially with the additional burden of having to carry the team on his shoulders Saturday thanks to their defensive deficiencies, as the offense had to basically give up on the run because of how many points they were down, which in turn took away two of their better playmakers, running backs Josh Adams and Tarean Folston.

Even with all the internal issues facing Notre Dame, it’s difficult to pick against them this week against a Duke team that is essentially bankrupt of playmakers on their offense. While the Irish will likely be affected by the sidelines shenanigans of stupidity that seem to reign supreme at times amongst the coaching staff, they should still have no issue getting past the Blue Devils on Saturday in South Bend and will cover the three touchdown head start.

Mike M's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -21

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