Following back-to-back tough conference losses on the gridiron, Duke returns to action Saturday against a No. 15 Notre Dame team on its heels. The Blue Zone gives you three keys to Duke’s matchup against the Irish:
1. Strike while the iron is hot
Ordinarily, a blowout would be in order for the Blue Devils against a powerhouse like Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish are not looking too good right now. Previously considered championship contenders, the luck of the Irish seems to have run out after suffering a big loss to rival Michigan and barely beating an inconsistent Virginia Tech team at home. Notre Dame has slid all the way down to 15th in the AP poll, signaling that something is wrong in South Bend, Ind. Duke should look to take advantage of and press this opportunity. Notre Dame is clearly vulnerable right now, and if the Blue Devils can exploit that, it could be a competitive game Saturday.
2. Nothing short of a miracle (speech)
The Blue Devils are too entering this game somewhat demoralized. It has been a tough past couple of weeks following a major loss to Virginia and a heartbreaker to North Carolina. But the 4-4 Duke team needs motivation now more than ever. David Cutcliffe must deliver his best speeches in this game. Duke will enter this game coming off of a bye week and this game will be key in its bowl push. If the Blue Devils want to send the Irish back to South Bend with their tails between their legs, Cutcliffe needs to put the team in right mindset. Winning this game won’t be easy, but restoring a winning attitude might just give them a chance.
3. Run, Duke, Run!
We know quarterback Quentin Harris has struggled through the air this season. Notre Dame’s impressive secondary doesn't make it any more of a favorable matchup—running the ball may be the key to victory. Two weeks ago, the Fighting Irish defense gave up 344 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 57 carries to Michigan running backs. Clearly an exploitable hole, if Duke can keep the ball on ground, it should be able to run all over Notre Dame. This doesn’t mean only featuring explosive back Deon Jackson, though. The Wolverines handed the ball off to six different players in the blowout 45-14 victory. If the Blue Devils want to replicate that, it means showing different packages and different looks to keep Notre Dame on its heels.