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The Observer predicts Notre Dame vs. Duke

| Friday, September 29, 2023

Chancelor Gordon | The Observer
Notre Dame’s cheerleading team runs across the field during the 56-3 Irish takedown of Tennessee State at Notre Dame Stadium on Sep. 2, 2023.

José Sánchez Córdova, Assistant Managing Editor

Most Irish fans are still reeling from Ohio State, but Freeman and the staff need to have the players ready to go after a tough home loss. Duke is a quality opponent and Notre Dame has to go on the road to Durham. I expect another stressful game for Irish fans against a Duke team that has surprised many in 2023. The Irish defense will force quarterback Riley Leonard to stand in the pocket and beat them through the air, forcing mistakes and creating opportunities. Duke’s defense poses a difficult challenge for Sam Hartman and the offense, but I think they will do just enough, especially on the ground, to beat the Blue Devils. Look for the Irish to bounce back in Durham and get their season back on track. Notre Dame 30, Duke 23.

Andrew McGuinness, Sports Editor

Marcus Freeman has had some ups and definitely some downs in his first year and a half. So far, when the Irish have had their backs against the wall, Notre Dame has found a way. Duke will present a tough challenge, especially with its secondary, as the Blue Devils allow the third-fewest passing yards per game in the nation.

Expect a game somewhat similar to Ohio State, with the deep balls the Irish offense was known for in the first four weeks likely not very prevalent again. But expect a big bounceback game from junior running back Audric Estime to lead the way. Unlike last year’s letdown games, the Irish won’t need a repeat offense to learn from their mistakes. Notre Dame 24, Duke 17.

J.J. Post, Associate Sports Editor

I don’t think this will be the dominant statement win Irish fans are hoping for. Duke is a well-marshaled unit, and Notre Dame might be working with a dangerously thin receiver group.

Ultimately, though, I expect the Irish to prevail with a big day from Audric Estime. The Blue Devil defense is no joke, but if Notre Dame’s own defense can keep getting stops, the Irish will eventually grind Mike Elko and Co. down. I think this matchup will be similar to Notre Dame’s trip to NC State, a game that didn’t truly see separation until the fourth quarter. Notre Dame 27, Duke 17.

Emily DeFazio, Associate Sports Editor

I don’t think I will ever recover from that final second against Ohio State, nor forget what it was like to watch the stadium go from elation to shock in milliseconds. That being said, the Fighting Irish will certainly have to this weekend against No. 17 Duke. The team already seems to have the “one-week season” mentality in place heading to Durham.

Given last weekend, expect the team to come back more determined than ever to erase the ten-man debacle from recent memory. They might be coming off a loss, but they are also coming off a fight to the death against the then-No. 6 team in the country, and they intend to remind everyone of that. Expect another back-and-forth match with a heavier emphasis on Estime and the run game that will result in a definitive Irish victory. Notre Dame 28, Duke 21.

Madeline Ladd, Associate Sports Editor

Despite the soul-crushing final few seconds against Ohio State, it’s time for the Irish to move on. They can’t let Ohio State beat them twice. Last year, the Irish had challenges coming off high-energy games such as the one against the Buckeyes, which resulted in the infamous loss to Marshall.

This week, the Irish take on No. 17 Duke, a team that has seen its best performance in years and is a contender for the ACC title. With a mobile quarterback in Riley Leonard and a strong defense looking to force turnovers, the Blue Devils were able to upset Clemson and steamroll their lesser opponents. That said, they are good but very beatable. Against Ohio State, the Irish showed they are one of the top teams in the country. If they can stay out of their own heads and limit turnovers, they will bounce back with a vengeance this weekend. Notre Dame 35, Duke 17.

Matthew Crow, Associate Sports Editor

Notre Dame fans may not yet have recovered from last weekend, but the Irish players should be highly motivated to return to the win column. A major factor in the Ohio State loss was Notre Dame’s struggle to extend their own drives and get the Buckeyes’ offense off the field. Third-down execution on both sides will again loom large against a talented Duke team.

The Irish should key in on containing mobile quarterback Riley Leonard after he racked up 98 rushing yards against Clemson through a combination of designed keepers and scrambles. On offense, expect a lot of carries for Audric Estime, given the Blue Devils’ stingy pass defense. Notre Dame will improve to 5-1 with a comfortable-ish win on the road. Notre Dame 31, Duke 20.

Tom Zwiller, Senior Sports Writer

I can’t guarantee much, but I can guarantee that Notre Dame will always have 11 men on the field. I can also guarantee that Duke is not going to beat themselves Saturday. Mike Elko is a great coach who has a solid, disciplined team and a good defense. 

I am hesitant to say that the Blue Devils have a great defense, as they have the 92nd overall strength of schedule, so any stats about yards per game or rush are probably a little skewed. But it is a good defense, so I expect the Irish to be limited on explosive plays. Against Clemson, Duke was limited on offense with a low third-down efficiency and held to about five yards per pass attempt. But the Blue Devils were able to move the ball on the ground at 6.6 yards per rush, and I think they might be able to replicate that against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame can win, but Duke is going to be within striking distance the entire game. Notre Dame 24, Duke 21.

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