Duke at Northwestern
Saturday, 5 pm PT - Big Ten Network
Northwestern -6 O/U 43
Northwestern -6 O/U 43.5
Both clubs enter this contest off bad losses to weak opposition with Duke losing a 24-14 conference decision to Wake Forest and the Wildcats falling to FCS Illinois State 9-7 on a last second field goal. It’s early, but the outcome of this game could go a long ways in determining whether or not either of these teams reach the postseason.
Duke's offense is going through some transitional issues as starting quarterback Thomas Sirk was lost for the year with a torn Achilles and two new offensive lineman try to gel within the rotation. The Blue Devils were held to just 37 rushing yards last game, and in return allowed 239 yards on the ground and three touchdowns to Demon Deacons freshman tailback Cade Carney. Note that last year, Duke held Wake to only 112 yards on the ground. Duke’s rush defense surrendered only 3.61 ypc in 2015 thanks in large part to do-everything hybrid linebacker Jeremy Cash who was arguably the most important defensive player in the country. Cash, who has since moved on to the NFL, didn’t play in the bowl game due to injury and the Blue Devils allowed Indiana to roll up 687 total yards.
Northwestern also had issues running the ball last week with starting rusher Justin Jackson picking up just 39 yards on 11 carries. ISU outgained the Cats 372-277 en route to the program’s first-ever win over Big Ten competition.
If we take a step back and look at the performances of both teams thus far, I feel as if Duke’s loss to Wake Forest was more alarming. In Durham, Wake outgained Duke by 1.25 yards per play. Note that the week prior, the Demon Deacons managed only 175 total yards in an ugly 7-3 win over a rebuilding Tulane squad. Meanwhile, Western Michigan, who has a chance to run the regular season table, beat the Wildcats 22-21 on a controversial ending. And Illinois State is a very solid top 20 FCS program
more than capable of upsetting a clearly hungover middle-tier Big Ten team like Northwestern. No doubt Northwestern’s 10-win season from a year ago was fluky, but I still feel they have enough edges to get past was looks to be a very down Duke squad.