WHO? No. 15 Notre Dame (6-2) at Duke (4-4).
WHAT? Back in the days when the Irish were in Playoff contention, all of two weeks ago, this may have been the ever-feared trap game. While Notre Dame knows how to endure Navy’s triple-option and every college football fan can predict most Boston College plays, the Blue Devils are an underrated, well-coached team.
At .500, Duke flies below the radar, but it cannot be emphasized enough that even being .500 is a testament to head coach David Cutcliffe, now in his 12th year in Durham. It would not have shocked an astute observer to see Cutcliffe engineer an upset of the Irish if their view was on the bigger picture rather than the weekend, especially coming off the week with the first Playoff rankings.
Instead, Notre Dame has a chance at a firm grasp on respectability. The Irish staging a last-minute comeback against Virginia Tech did only so much in repairing what was broken at Michigan. A win on the road against a decent Blue Devils team will further those efforts, if not in the broad view, then at least in the informed opinion.
In what was once a potential trap game, Notre Dame can now find another toehold toward a strong finish to the season.
WHEN? 7:30 ET. Most weeks that might mean there will be a distinctly better game to watch in primetime. A middling ACC team against the No. 15 team in the country does not usually warrant national attention, but this week, the only other late games with top-25 teams are expected to be much more lopsided than this contest.
WHERE? Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C. In nearly any other circumstance, this is when time would be spent discussing how small Wallace Wade is at only 40,004 seats. Not this week.
The ACC Network will have the broadcast. Not everyone gets that channel. It may be more difficult to track down than expected, so start looking early. For the first time since 2002, the Irish will not be on a nationally-available channel.
Most large-scale cable providers have reached a deal with the ACC Network, but at least one exception remains. Swapping cable providers in one day is not the easiest maneuver, needing a new cable box and all, not to mention that pesky year-long contract commitment, etc.
Activating a weeklong trial with YouTube TV or Hulu’s live service should be a bit less frustrating and time-consuming. A word of warning, though: Even with high-quality streaming services such as those, there is a good chance a Twitter feed will be a minute or two ahead of the streaming action.
For further information — about ACC Network availability, not about Twitter delays — take a look at getACCN.com.
WHY? As in, why in the world is this game on the ACC Network? If it forces Notre Dame off typical airwaves for a weekend, how could this happen? The answer is pretty straightforward and entirely based on logic …
— Notre Dame has a deal with the ACC creating five games each season between the two.
— The Irish away games in that deal are subject to usual broadcast debates. That is simply not much noticed because, usually, a trip to Virginia Tech or Florida State or Miami is reason enough for a game to be very much wanted by one of the typical ESPN channels.
— Even under Cutcliffe, Duke does not rise to that level.
— Thus, the ACC saw a negotiating opportunity, getting Notre Dame onto its brand new channel and subjecting cable providers to irate Irish fans who cannot watch the game.
Of course, just because it is logical does not mean you have to like it.
BY HOW MUCH? Notre Dame opened as a touchdown favorite, a line that quickly moved to eight points, where it stayed. A combined point total over/under of 51 points creates math of a 30-22 result.
Some may wonder how the Irish can be favored by only a touchdown, even a score with a successful two-point conversion included, at Duke. First of all, it is at Duke. Road games put something of a cap on the expected edge.
Furthermore, the Blue Devils are a competent team. This is not Georgia Tech or North Carolina State. This is a Cutcliffe-coached team led by a dual-threat quarterback.
All that said, Notre Dame has struggled to score as it would like to lately. Its saving grace, as much as that can be said at all, has been its defense. Clark Lea will face a Duke offense that has itself struggled to only 25.5 points per game in its last four games. Those were ACC contests, sure, but they were not the stiffest of competition.
It is difficult to genuinely expect the Irish to hang a crooked number after watching two months of stop-and-go offense, but it is just as troublesome to put much in the way of expectations on the Blue Devils and fifth-year quarterback Quentin Harris.
Maybe this is a coward’s way out, but let’s lean into that type of scoring-depleted evening …
Notre Dame 27, Duke 17.
(7-1 in pick; 3-5 against the spread; 3-5 point total.)
INSIDE THE IRISH READING:
— On Notre Dame’s ball security and lack thereof
— Ranked No. 15, Irish have a Pac-12 problem
— And In That Corner … The Duke Blue Devils, Notre Dame’s next ACC challenge
— Ill-advised, unexpected and needed: Trevor Ruhland fills in for Notre Dame
— Things to Learn: Just as No. 15 Notre Dame gets its backfield back, it rebuilds its OL
— Jafar Armstrong battles adversity head-on
— How many teams can realistically win the national championship these days? ($)
— Ande Gradel followed her dad’s footsteps in winning a boxing title at Notre Dame
— 150 years of college football: The Athletic’s All-Time Team ($)
— PFF 2020 NFL mock draft: Burrow, Tagovailoa go Nos. 1 and 2
— Updated NFL Draft board: Offensive tackles make greatest jump as board expands to Top 100 ($)