Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 40 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 41 Under Cutcliffe, Duke has devel‑ oped a reputation for overachieving the way Wake Forest did from about 2001‑08 under head coach Jim Grobe, although it probably has reached its plateau and might be trending downward. A fourth straight winning season in 2016 will be a tall order for Duke with road games at Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Miami. Still, Cutcliffe is further proof that winning percentage alone does not define exceptional job performance at certain places. RECRUITING IMPROVED, BUT NOT ENOUGH Duke is sort of a non‑triple‑option version of Navy: well coached, com‑ petitive, and head coach David Cut‑ cliffe's teams can put up the points. However, it probably doesn't have quite enough on defense to slow down Notre Dame's attack, barring a plethora of turnovers by the Irish. Because of its success under Cut‑ cliffe the past three seasons, Duke's recruiting has been upgraded a notch. In the five years from 2010‑14, Duke signed only one Rivals four‑ star player. In the last two cycles (2015 and 2016) it landed five. Overall, Duke is a long way from being a football force on the recruit‑ ing trail. Its Rivals class ranking from 2012‑16 are No. 56 (2012), No. 69 (2013), No. 59 (2014), No. 63 (2015) and No. 33 (2016). Compare that to Notre Dame's Rivals class rankings from 2012‑16: No. 20 (2012), No. 3 (2013), No. 11 (2014), No. 11 (2015) and No. 12 (2016). The offense this year suffered a huge setback when fifth‑year se‑ nior quarterback Thomas Sirk (2,625 yards passing and a team‑high 803 rushing last year) was lost for the season this winter because of an Achilles injury. The Blue Devils also graduated leading rusher Shaquille Powell and top receiver Max McCaf‑ frey (brother of Christian). The standout defensively is rover/ safety DeVon Edwards, a third‑team All‑ACC pick on defense but also an All‑America game‑breaking kick returner who has scored six times on kickoffs, three of them last season. Duke also needs to replace one of the nation's best kicker/punter tandems in Ross Martin (78‑of‑93 on field goals) and punter Will Monday. Instead of winning shootouts like in recent years, Duke might need to lean on its defense a little more, as evidenced in the 24‑14 loss to Wake Forest Sept. 10. Hired as associate defensive co‑ ordinator and line coach was Ben Albert, who coached the past three seasons at Boston College. In 2015, the Eagles led the country in total defense (254.3 yards allowed per game), third‑down conversion de‑ fense (24.1 percent) and tackles for loss per game (9.6), while also rank‑ ing among the nation's top five in rushing defense (second, 82.8 yards allowed per game), scoring defense (fourth, 15.3 points allowed per game) and passing efficiency defense (fifth, 104.66 rating). REMEMBER WHEN … The last time Notre Dame and Duke met was Nov. 17, 2007, in probably the lowest moment of NBC Sports' 26‑year coverage of Fighting Irish home games. Both teams entered that contest with 1‑9 records, a dubious achieve‑ ment seldom seen in college football annals anywhere. Notre Dame won 28‑7 en route to a 3‑9 finish. Five years later, Notre Dame was playing for the national title and Duke went to a bowl game as well before winning the ACC Coastal Di‑ vision the following season. It just goes to show better tomor‑ rows can always be ahead. ✦ GAME PREVIEW: DUKE Last year, fifth-year senior DeVon Edwards was named third-team All-ACC as a defensive back and also recorded three of his six career kickoff returns for touchdowns. PHOTO BY GRANT SHORIN/DUKE Predictions Corey Bodden: Notre Dame 38, Duke 10 Duke has not had much success running the ball in 2016 and will have to be balanced to defeat Notre Dame. Unless the Irish come out flat following the Michigan State game, it should be an easy double-digit victory. Bryan Driskell: Notre Dame 44, Duke 17 The Notre Dame offense has matchup advantages all over the field against Duke. If the Blue Devils still had QB Thomas Sirk this would be a closer game, but without him Duke can't score enough to hang with the Irish. Matt Jones: Notre Dame 38, Duke 13 With its powerful offense hitting stride, DeShone Kizer is able to steer the Irish to a big first-half lead. Duke tacks on a touchdown late against the second team. David McKinney: Notre Dame 49, Duke 13 This one is a no-brainer, especially after the Blue Devils lost at home to Wake Forest while scoring only 14 points. Kizer and the Irish offense roll over the Blue Devils. Lou Somogyi: Notre Dame 38, Duke 10 If Notre Dame can own Duke in basketball — Mike Brey is 4-1 against Coach K the past five meetings, while the women have won 10 straight — then it should especially prosper on the gridiron.

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