Game Prediction

It's getting harder and harder each week to write these predictions. In my position, one would like to think they would have the pulse of this team, but each week provides a different twist or turn. Notre Dame has to beat Duke, right?

I'm pretty sure nobody predicted 1-9 for the Irish. That's how unpredictable this season has been. On paper the Irish should beat Duke soundly, but paper is worth about as much as my predictions lately—nothing. Why? You can't measure heart, and you never know how much heart and passion a team will play with each week.

Each week goes by and I believe Notre Dame will play with the enthusiasm that good teams play with, but I don't see it often enough. At 1-9, is there anything left for Notre Dame to play for? At 1-9, there's plenty for Duke to play for.

Irish offense versus the Duke defense

The Duke defense is pretty bad. They give up 266 yards passing per game, and 178 yards rushing. Notre Dame shouldn't have much trouble moving or scoring on this unit as the Blue Devils have surrendered 40 or points in six out of their 10 games.

Duke's stats are pretty comparable to Navy's defense, so there's no reason the Irish can't score at least 35 points on this defense. Run, pass, they should be able to do both fairly easy.

I'd expect to see a pretty wide open offense on Saturday as Notre Dame tries to spread out the Blue Devil defense and make them defend the entire field. With a healthy Jimmy Clausen, and wide receiver Duval Kamara back, I expect the Irish to throw it quite a bit, but Duke has also surrendered 27 rushing touchdowns this season, and running the ball should come fairly easy for the Irish as well.

Irish defense versus the Duke offense

Here is where the real battle will take place. The Duke offense can score points and make plays, but nothing like Navy. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis can make some plays throwing the ball. He threw for four touchdowns against Navy and Wake Forrest, and three against Northwestern in their only win.

Before Irish fans say "well, that's Navy, Wake Forrest and Northwestern," all three teams have much better records than the Irish, and would likely beat Notre Dame. Navy already has.

The Blue Devils are actually dead last in rushing with 52 yards a game, so the key will be to stop Lewis and wide receiver Eron Riley. Riley is having an excellent season (35 receptions, 751 yards, 9 TD, 21.5 yards per catch) despite Duke's 1-9 record. He obviously makes a lot of big plays, and Notre Dame will have to find a way to slow him down.

Special teams and the "X" factor

On special teams, Duke is what you'd expect a 1-9 team to be—less than average. There isn't anything glaring that the Irish can attack as Duke is ranked in the 70s in most categories. They have a -.33 turnover margin, so they do turn it over slightly more than they create turnovers, but nothing to get too excited about.

The big key, as it has been the past two games, is which team wants this game more. Notre Dame can and should beat Duke, but they won't if they don't play with effort in this game. It is senior day for the Irish, so that may be a little extra emotion heading into the game, but I just don't see a lot of emotion out of this team. I keep thinking it will be there each and every week and end up being disappointed in the end.

Mike Frank Prediction: I think we'll see a different team this week for one reason. I think we'll see a lot of young players playing in this game. I think some key seniors will start the game, but if they don't play well in the first series, I think you'll see a youth movement shortly there after. The younger players will kick up the emotion a notch, as we've seen all season, and that will propel the Irish to their second victory of the season.

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