As Duke looks to keep its undefeated streak alive against Notre Dame, the Blue Zone is here with a key player on each team to keep an eye on:
Notre Dame: JD Bertrand
A massive defensive miscommunication proved fatal for Notre Dame last weekend. With just seconds on the clock and Ohio State on the goal line, the Fighting Irish had only 10 men on the field. Buckeye running back Chip Trayanum took advantage and plowed into the endzone, handing Notre Dame its first loss of the season. As a result, the Fighting Irish will be coming in hot and angry after a frustrating loss and the front seven will especially feel the pressure to redeem themselves. We can expect JD Bertrand, starting middle linebacker and two-time team captain for Notre Dame, to be spying on Duke quarterback Riley Leonard for much of the game. If Leonard escapes the pocket to run, Bertrand will likely be tasked with following him wherever he goes. Considering that Leonard had 98 and 97 rushing yards in the games against Clemson and Northwestern, respectively, Bertrand and his squad will play a major role in limiting his mobility — and with it, the efficacy of the Blue Devil offense.
Duke: R.J. Oben
Redshirt senior R.J. Oben will be someone to watch as Duke’s starting defensive end. Notre Dame’s left tackle Joe Alt was a first-team All-American last year and a top NFL prospect, so it will definitely be a challenge for the Blue Devil pass rush to pressure Fighting Irish graduate transfer quarterback Sam Hartman. Just as Notre Dame’s defensive linemen will be key to taming Leonard, Duke’s linemen will similarly need to show up against one of the best offensive lines in the country. Oben is tied for the team lead in sacks with 1.5, and putting Hartman on the ground could make a big difference. Oben is part of an experienced and veteran group that has slowly improved its play over the course of the season but will face its toughest challenge yet.
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