Earlier this month, the Blue Devils defied odds and took down then top-10 Clemson at home. On Saturday night, No. 17 Duke faces its second major test of the month against No. 11 Notre Dame at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Chronicle's beat writers are here to offer their predictions about whether the Blue Devils can stay undefeated against a talented Fighting Irish team:
Andrew Long: Notre Dame 31-28
In what world is Duke the undefeated one going up against Notre Dame?
After defeating then-No.9 Clemson as an unranked underdog, the Blue Devils are now ranked No. 17 and hold substantially more external belief than they did heading into Week 1. With junior quarterback Riley Leonard proving that last year wasn’t a one-off, Jordan Waters logging rushing score after rushing score and the secondary looking the best it has in years, Duke has officially transcended “pretender” status and is now shooting for the illustrious honorific of “contender.” But standing in its way is a team that I think is one of the best in the country, headlined by a young head coach that I believe in (Marcus Freeman), a quarterback who will be in the Heisman conversation (Sam Hartman) and the country’s best running back right now (Audric Estime). Is Duke the real deal? Yes — its record and its quartet of comfortable wins prove that. But is Notre Dame just ever so slightly real-er? I think so.
Rachael Kaplan: Notre Dame 30-17
Duke has a good football team; there is no doubt about that. Its dominant first four wins demonstrate that, from its lockdown red-zone defense to the explosive rushing attack led by Waters. However, Notre Dame is a different beast. The No. 9 ranking Clemson heralded this preseason has quickly fallen to a bold NR next to the Tigers’ name. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, have proven themselves to have earned their No. 11 ranking. Last week against playoff-contender Ohio State, Notre Dame held on until the last second, only losing on a failed defensive play call that left it a man down on the go-ahead touchdown. Sam Hartman is a 24-year-old beast, and while the Blue Devils can make this top-20 showcase a game, it’s one they won’t come out on top of.
Ranjan Jindal: Notre Dame 24-20
On paper, this is not a very good matchup for Duke. Estime is the leading rusher in the country and the Fighting Irish boast an elite offensive line. The Blue Devils’ rushing defense has not been consistent through the first few games of the season, and Hartman adds another dimension to this offense.
That being said, Elko has demonstrated the ability to prepare well for big games, and there is no doubt that the team plays extremely hard. Clemson outgained Duke and had an advantage in almost every offensive stat, but the Blue Devils made the biggest plays in the most important moments and won by three scores. However, the biggest difference between those games is the experience of Hartman versus Tiger quarterback Cade Klubnik, who was making only his second-career start against Duke. Hartman has played 53 games and is extremely tough to beat. I see this as a low-scoring game with both offenses methodically moving down the field, and the Fighting Irish emerging victorious in the end.
Dom Fenoglio: Notre Dame 24-17
This game will be a slugfest between two teams that love to run the ball. Sadly for Blue Devil fans, no player in the country is running the ball better than Estime, and in a battle of strength against strength, the Fighting Irish will come out on top. Duke will look for a mistake, either in the form of an Estime fumble or an errant throw from Hartman, but counting on the other team’s failures does not paint a confident picture for a Blue Devil win. I do think Leonard will keep Duke close, and this game will not be decided until the fourth quarter. However, I have a hard time seeing Hartman losing two straight close games, and his six years of college experience will be enough to lead Notre Dame to the victory. While I predict that fans will be denied their second field-storming of the season, the Blue Devils should put together a strong showing that proves them capable of competing nonetheless.
Caleb Dudley: Duke 31-28
Duke arguably draws Notre Dame at the worst possible time, catching the Fighting Irish coming off a heartbreaking loss to Ohio State. However, the hype is building for the Blue Devils, and all eyes will be on head coach Mike Elko’s team Saturday night. I believe Duke will rise to the challenge, but it won’t be a breeze. Notre Dame boasts some of the best trench play in the country, presenting a unique challenge for Duke’s talented defensive line and Leonard’s protectors. The College GameDay hype will have campus buzzing all the way through the contest, and Duke will ride the wave and find a way to knock off Notre Dame. After a Todd “The Boot” Pelino kick soars in for a game-winner, Duke will emerge from Wallace Wade Stadium with a 31-28 victory, cementing itself as a national contender.
Micah Hurewitz: Notre Dame 30-24
This is the game I picked preseason to be Duke’s worst loss — with the idea that it would be a crushing home defeat which could put the Blue Devils back in their place. A lot has obviously changed since then, with Duke showing its defensive prowess against Clemson and Leonard looking sharp as ever. Notre Dame, on the other hand, suffered a brutal last-second defeat next to which Freeman would like to put a bold asterisk (or a few). We will be in for a treat as Leonard gets to duel again with Hartman (the last time they met in Nov. 2022 they combined for 738 yards between the pair) and the Fighting Irish will initiate a battle on the ground. It’s arguably the biggest game played in Durham since at least 2012’s installment of Duke-North Carolina and both teams will bring it under the lights, but Notre Dame will hold the edge on the ground and has immense talent all around the field. The Blue Devils are sure to battle, but this more likely than not will be their first loss of the 2023 season.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.