Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Duke Blue Devils Pick 11/9/19
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-2 SU, ATS) vs. Duke Blue Devils (4-4 SU, 4-4 ATS)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 9th, 7:30 PM
Where: Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Point Spread: ND -8 / DUKE -+8 (Bovada)
Over/Under Total: 52
Rare opponents face off in Durham Saturday night when Duke welcomes Notre Dame to Wallace Wade Stadium. This will be just the sixth all-time meeting between the teams with Notre Dame leading the series 3-2, though it was Duke who won the last meeting back in 2016 as a 20.5 road underdog. This will be the first time they have met in North Carolina since 1961.
PUT UP YOUR DUKES
The Blue Devils enter the game with a 4-4 record, with all their wins coming when they have scored 30 or more points. Things were looking promising after upsetting Virginia Tech with a 45-10 blowout win and seeing themselves with a 3-1 record, but they have since crashed back to normalcy with just one win in their last four games, all of which were against ACC opponents. This isn’t much of a surprise considering Duke has gone only 9-24 in their last 33 conference matchups.
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ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The Duke offense is led by senior quarterback Quentin Harris, who on the season has thrown for 1500 yards and a 13/7 TD-INT ratio. This is a step down from his previous 8/1 ratio in games played prior to this season, and how well he holds onto the ball has a had a direct correlation to the Blue Devils’ success, as they are 4-0 this year when he doesn’t throw an interception and 0-4 when he does. Harris is currently 10th in the ACC in quarterback rating, though at least he does offset his lack of passing success with positivity on the ground, having run for 408 yards and six touchdowns through the teams’ first eight games.
The top options for Harris through the air are Jalon Calhoun, Scott Bracey, and Noah Gray. Calhoun leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, though he has hit a bit of a dry scoring spell having been held out of the end zone since week three. Gray is in a similar boat as Calhoun with no touchdowns since week four, though thankfully for Harris, their struggles have been offset by Bracey, who has scored touchdowns in their past two games in a row. All involved will look to improve on what has been an overall struggle this season with the team ranking 102nd in passing yards per game. Duke’s rushing attack hasn’t necessarily lei the world on fire, but at least as a team, rank 30 spots ahead of where they find themselves with passing. Junior running back, Deon Jackson is the teams’ focal back and has put up 487 yards rushing with a total of seven touchdowns both through the air and on the ground.
While Duke comes into this weekend off a bye week, the Irish come into Saturday fresh off a narrow 21-20 escape against Virginia Tech last week. Despite being a 17.5-point favorite, Notre Dame needed a touchdown/extra point in the final minute to get the come from behind victory. They were up 14-7 late in the first half and were about to go in for a touchdown to take a two-score lead before they fumbled, and the Hokies scooped the ball up and went 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Much like how mentally weak they looked against Michigan, the Irish were unable to overcome their momentum-killing mistake and went over 40 minutes without touching the scoreboard before Ian Book was able to scramble into the end zone for the game-winning score.
RUNNING ON EMPTY
As up and down as Book has looked this season at times, the Irish will likely need to continue relying on their signal-caller to spark the offense as their running game has struggled in recent weeks. Tony Jones Jr. missed last weekend due to hurt ribs, and unfortunately recently returned from injury Jafar Armstrong continues to look nothing like his 2018 self as he attempts to get back to 100 percent and take his spot as one of the leading options in the Irish backfield. Jones Jr. is expected back this week, and Notre Dame will look to him to spark a running game that hasn’t seen a single running back gain over 37 yards in back to back weeks. The main issue that may prevent this from happening is injuries to the Irish offensive line, with captain and starter Robert Hainsey lost for the season last week due to an ankle injury, which only further complicates matters since fellow starter Tommy Kraemer is currently injured as well and not expected to play on Saturday.
The Irish running game isn’t the only part of the offense that will be likely affected by the O-line injuries. Quarterback Ian Book will probably need to start getting the ball out quicker, considering the extra pressure he is now expected to face from opposing pass rushers. This may lead to an even further uptick of targets for Chase Claypool, who leads the teams in receptions and yards but despite having four touchdowns this year, has only scored in one of his past five games. Along with Claypool, Book’s other top option is tight end Cole Kmet, who continues to perform at a high level after missing the first couple of weeks due to injury. Unlike Claypool, Kmet has found scoring success of late with touchdowns in five of the six games he has played this season.
THE FINAL DECISION
Both teams have been able to find great success based upon their points scored/allowed in recent history. Duke is 1-15 in their last 16 when allowing 28 points or more and 11-0 in their previous eleven when allowing less than 28. Notre Dame’s success is more based on offensive prowess, as they have won 27 straight games when scoring more than 20 points but are 0-4 in their last four when scoring 20 or less. The Irish are favored by a touchdown, and the over/under is set at 52, which would put Notre Dame’s expected point total at 30 points, and if all follow suit and the trends continue would point in the direction of them covering. The game being in Durham certainly gives Duke a needed edge though, as Notre Dame is just 11-14 straight up in their last 25 road matchups, which includes a 1-6-1 mark against the spread in their previous eight. The Blue Devils are also coming off of a bye week (they are one of seven teams Notre Dame plays this year off a bye) and while they as previously mentioned have struggled against ACC opponents, they have been the opposite against non-conference foes, putting up a record of 26-6 in their last 32 non-ACC opponents (25-7 against the spread). Despite Duke’s advantages, I believe Notre Dame will find a way to turn the corner this weekend and start playing to their expected level of success after back-to-back disappointing weeks, and by night’s end will escape Durham with a win and cover.
Mike’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Notre Dame -8
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