Saturday's Keys

You think Notre Dame has hit rock bottom? Thing again. A loss today against Duke would be exactly that. To go winless at home for a season is unimaginable. This game matters. And if there ever was a must win game, this is it. The Irish have to beat the Blue Devils.

NBC can't be happy about this national television telecast. Two 1-9 football teams. The commercial timeouts may not be so bad.

Here are the keys to the game.

***Get quarterback Jimmy Clausen going: Enough of the dinking and dunking. Enough of the conservative play calling. If the scheme against Duke is the same as it's been all season, then the Irish could very well lose this game. The Blue Devils rank 113th nationally in pass-efficiency defense. The freshman Clausen should have a career day. He played great against Air Force in the second half, and with Duval Kamara back in the starting lineup, the Irish offense should have no problems moving the football through the air.

It's time to start calling the same plays as if Brady Quinn was the quarterback. The Irish offensive line should be able to give enough protection against Duke's pass rush.

Open up the game with the same play as last week. Hit tight end John Carlson down the middle. There's no way he puts it on the ground this time.

***Make sure recruit Gerrell Robinson has a good time on his official visit: It's the same situation as last weekend with defensive tackle commit Omar Hunter. At 1-9, there isn't much to play for. But Notre Dame needs a win for Gerrell Robinson, the already verbally committed, and anybody else considering the Irish in the class of 2009. Robinson will be on his official visit, and Notre Dame would like to have the four-star receiver prospect. Some think his recruitment could end this weekend. There are many other top-notch juniors on campus as well. If the Irish can beat Duke, the atmosphere at Notre Dame will be great. Robinson and the other recruits will love the campus, and with a victory, will also love the game-day atmosphere.

***No big plays: Duke's offense is horrendous, but they do have big-play ability in quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, a high school teammate of Armando Allen, and receiver Eron Riley. If the Irish defense doesn't give up any explosives, the Blue Devils and the nation's worst rushing offense should have problems moving the football.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Duke 17: It's senior day, and here's saying the guys play well for the last time in the Notre Dame blue. But it's the young players that carry the team to a win. Clausen matches his career-high with three touchdown passes, running back James Aldridge gets into the end zone for the first time, and the defense turns Duke over a couple times, in a complete team win. Top Stories