Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Duke Blue Devils Betting Picks

September 10, 2020

Duke Blue Devils Preview

The Blue Devils got a lot of flack for how the 2019 season went, but I’m not sure I am willing to be so harsh. They were blessed with Daniel Jones from 2015 to 2018 and were asked to succeed with a similar offense and a much different style QB under center. Dual-threat Quentin Harris took over the reins and impressed with 2,000+ passing yards and another 500 on the ground. The offense just never found a rhythm and it got very ugly in the last four games with a combined 44 points scored for the Blue Devils. 

If you want to know how a David Cutcliffe offense works, it’s not like that. He’s now taken over the play-calling reigns after the ugly year and I wholeheartedly expect a nice turnaround from the Blue Devils. Incoming Clemson-transfer Chase Brice will step in and be asked to lead the team from game one. He chose Duke for a reason. Cutcliffe runs a very solid offense for a guy like Brice that lives on making solid reads and finding open targets in the short and mid-range, while also showing just a bit of danger with his feet. Think Daniel Jones and what made him successful at Duke. 

Brice won’t be as effective running the ball as Quentin Harris was, but leading-rusher Deon Jackson is returning and Mataeo Durant is no slouch of a backup. Jalon Calhoun led the Blue Devils in receiving yards a year ago with 46 receptions, 420 yards, and four touchdowns. He’ll be back along with reception-leader TE Noah Gray, who hauled in 51 balls with 392 yards and three touchdowns. I also expect Deon Jackson to get a lot more involved out of the backfield as he looked more and more comfortable catching the ball as last season progressed. 

Offensively, this is a team and coaching staff that puts a lot of trust and responsibility in the QB. Brice is going to have the ball in his hands a ton and will be asked to do most of the heavy lifting. That might seem obvious for any QB, but most college QB’s aren’t asked to read a defense like Cutcliffe expects. Personally, I expect Brice to be exactly what this team needs and for this Duke squad to have a turnaround season. Defensively, the Blue Devils will have a tough task on their hands as they look to contain Ian Book and a rejuvenated Fighting Irish attack. 

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview

Notre Dame opens up the season as the 10th ranked team in the nation. Ian Book is returning for what seems like the sixth season in a row, but he’s really just a Senior. Book has thrown for 6,000+ combined yards and run for another 800 over the last two seasons. He’s been criticized for making mistakes in the big game, but it’s tough to blame a guy who’s been so good and consistent while single-handedly leading a lot of victories. He will still need to be better in the big moment if Notre Dame wants to remain a top-10 team. 

The running back position is beyond perplexing. Trying to make sense of how Senior Jafar Armstrong continues to freefall and is now fourth on the depth chart is a weird one. He suffered a post-surgery Staph infection and the only thing that makes sense is his knee never recovered. Currently listed atop the depth chart is Sophomore Kyren Williams, who ran the ball just four times in 2019. A four-star recruit and incoming freshman Chris Tyree is listed as the backup and I fully expect this backfield to be his by the third or fourth game of the season. He’s electric, tough, and can play all three downs. 

Cole Kmet and Chase Claypool are irreplaceable and will be sorely missed. You don’t find a guy like Claypool very often and the way he controlled space in the red zone was impressive and a huge value. Kmet was arguably the best receiving tight end and a guy we’ll be hearing on Sundays from now on. They lost their four leading receivers from a year ago, but I’m not sure the panic button needs to be smashed. 

Javon McKinley massed the most experienced WR on the depth chart and the coaching staff can’t stop raving about him. Freshman Jordan Johnson was also one of the best high school receivers in the country and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson make a big difference in year one. Kmet won’t be replaced, but the combination of Tommy Tremble and Brock Wright is still one of the best TE cores in the country. 

Spread Prediction

The Pick: Duke +20.5

The Fighting Irish lose seven offensive starts and while the talent remains, I expect some growing pains out of this offense. The Duke Blue Devils are a surefire better team than they were a year ago and I have higher expectations than most. Cutcliffe is going to call an aggressive game here and Brice is going to impress. He’d be playing at Clemson right now if Trevor Lawrence didn’t exist. The Fighting Irish defense is also losing five starters and they weren’t overly impressive a season ago against spread offenses. 

The public agrees here and the line has moved steadily from 22.5 to where it’s at now. There is still value in the Blue Devils here as I expect them to be looked at closer to their 2018-self after this game is over. The Fighting Irish might be the home team, but they won’t have much home-field advantage as the iconic crowd behind them will be nowhere to be found. I expect the Irish to come out victorious, but it won’t be as easy as the line is making it look. 

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Total Prediction

This isn’t a bet I’m looking to make as I think the oddsmakers hit this nail on the head and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the game between 50-58 points. Both offenses will have some growing pains, but they’re also fast-paced attacks and neither defense is much to worry about. I’m leaning the over as no crowd and lack of training camp should only help the offenses in general.

The Blue Devils will be playing faster with Cutcliffe calling plays and that will either result in scores or giving the ball back to a dangerous ND offense over and over. Either way, I lean over here and wouldn’t touch the under. Duke is easily my favorite bet in this game, however. 

The Pick: Over 53.5
Final Score Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Duke 24
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