Earlier this week, Duke announced its starting quarterback after a competitive preseason. Clemson transfer Chase Brice fought with redshirt junior Chris Katrenick and redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holmberg for the starting position and ultimately earned the role by “[making] plays at the highest rate,” as head coach David Cutcliffe said when the decision was made.
Brice made his move to Duke in the offseason after spending time backing up a projected first round pick in Trevor Lawrence. At Clemson, he saw very limited game time, usually coming in at the end when the win was already secured. However, in his limited time he showed why he earned his former three-star recruit rank with his efficient play.
Brice finished last season with a completion rate of 58.8 percent, four passing touchdowns and a season-long pass of 57 yards in the ACC title game against the Virginia Cavaliers. In only 85 attempts, the Georgia native totaled 581 yards passing. He also put his ground game on display, scrambling for 94 yards and a touchdown in 14 attempts.
What does all of this mean? Well, it means Saturday’s game may not be as one-sided as the national media expects. Having an NFL-style QB like Chase Brice will be key in helping Duke control the ball, something that benefited the Blue Devils in their last visit to South Bend when they pulled off the upset. In that game, the Blue Devils had 30 minutes of possession, keeping the Fighting Irish off the field. Controlling the ball will be key, and No. 10 Notre Dame will be a huge test for the revamped Blue Devils offense.
However, offense alone is not enough to win against such a challenging opponent. Duke’s strong defensive line, led by ESPN preseason All-American Chris Rumph II, will need to step up in a big way to hold an experienced offense that has five returning offensive linemen. Leading the offense will be veteran quarterback Ian Book, who wields a 20-3 record in his career as a starter.
Putting pressure on the quarterback will be key in slowing down a Notre Dame team that has built their offense around speed. Along with a veteran secondary that showed promise against No. 2 Alabama last season, the Blue Devils may be positioned to decelerate an offense that put up nearly 37 points per game in 2019.
Finally, catching Notre Dame by surprise could be the key to pulling off a major upset this Saturday. The offensive ground game may be crucial, with the Fighting Irish being notably weak in that area last season. A consistent passing performance from Chase Brice can open that up even further, potentially unlocking the key to a Blue Devil victory.
The opportunity is there for Cutcliffe and Chase Brice to strike against the highly-ranked opponent, but it is up to them to act upon it.