Stacking Up: Notre Dame Offense Matches Up Well Against Duke

Breaking down how the Notre Dame offense stacks up against the Duke defense

Notre Dame kicks off the 2020 football season on Saturday when it hosts the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is coming off a 5-7 season, which included a 38-7 home loss to Notre Dame.

The Irish offense thrived despite two turnovers and the loss of two starting offensive linemen.

Heading into the 2020 season this matchup should be a bit more competitive, as Duke returns a very talented line and secondary. On paper, however, the Irish still have a significant advantage.


ND Scoring Offense vs. Duke


Notre Dame had its best scoring offense of the Brian Kelly era when it averaged 36.8 points per game last season, and the average was at 37.1 during the regular season. The offense was a bit methodical last season, relying more on putting long drives together and great field position by the defense than it did a great deal of explosiveness.

Depending on how Notre Dame utilizes its personnel in 2020 - aka using Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III, Chris Tyree and Tommy Tremble more - the Irish could see a big jump in total offense and yards per play.

Notre Dame rolled to 38 points and 469 yards in the win over Duke, and it was a game where the Irish had a few more big plays than normal. 

Duke got ripped by Alabama in the opener last season, giving up 42 points and 512 yards. The Blue Devils gave up just 19.4 points per game over the next five contests, and held each opponent to 379 yards or fewer. Duke gave up 48 points in game seven during a loss to Virginia, but that was due to a kick return for a score and the Duke offense giving the Devils a lot of short fields.

The wheels came off a bit over the next four games, as the Duke defense gave up 36.5 points and 478.5 yards per game. Duke bounced back in the season finale, holding Miami to just 259 yards in a 27-17 victory over the Hurricanes.

Duke matches up well against Notre Dame in some areas, and if the Irish offense isn't sharp early the Blue Devil defense could help keep this game competitive for awhile.


ND Rush Offense vs. Duke


A driving force behind Duke's late season swoon was its run defense getting thrashed. Notre Dame rushed for 288 yards against the Blue Devils, which was part of a four-game stretch in which Duke gave up 278.3 yards per game on the ground.

That stretch came against the Irish, North Carolina, Wake Forest and Syracuse, which wasn't exactly a murderer's row of great running teams. 

Duke should be an improved rush defense in 2020 due to the return of a very talented defensive front. Chris Rumph III and Victor Dimukeje could be the best end tandem that Notre Dame faces this season, and Drew Jordan is no slouch on the edge. Inside, senior Derrick Tangelo is a run game anchor, but there are question marks at the other inside spot.

If you look at the statistics from last season, the Irish have the edge, but it's a slight advantage. Duke's run defense was inconsistent, but so was the Notre Dame ground game. Notre Dame had plenty of strong performances, but there were also plenty poor performances.

Will the 2020 run game be any better? 

The expectation is yes, it will, thanks to an offensive line that is expected to be one of the nation's best. Notre Dame should also be deeper at running back this season, and sophomore Kyren Williams and freshman Chris Tyree could combine to form a dynamic one-two punch at running back.


ND Pass Offense vs. Duke


Notre Dame and Duke have very similar numbers, and I actually considered giving the Blue Devils a slight edge, but having Ian Book back at quarterback evened things out. If Notre Dame didn't have so many concerns at wide receiver I'd be far more confident in this being an advantage for the Irish.

Book threw four touchdowns against the Blue Devils last season, but he went just 18-32 for 181 yards overall, and he was picked off twice. Duke made Notre Dame a bit inefficient in the pass game, and the Irish had Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet in that game. Will the current group of pass catchers be able to thrive in the opener? We'll see.

Duke has an experienced, talented and very long secondary. The Blue Devils are a 4-2-5 defense that plays a true five secondary alignment. Four of the five expected starters are at least 6-0, and they were productive.

A wildcard for Duke is cornerback Mark Gilbert, who played just two games in the previous two seasons. He is sort of Duke's version of Shaun Crawford. In 2017, Gilbert was a first-team All-ACC player, but he went down in game two of the 2018 season and it cost him all of that year and the entire 2019 season. Will he be back to full speed?

If Gilbert is back to full speed, he'll combine with safeties Michael Carter and Marquis Waters to form one of the better secondaries that Notre Dame will face all season.


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Notre Dame kicks off the 2020 football season on Saturday when it hosts the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is coming off a 5-7 season, which included a 38-7 home loss to Notre Dame.

The Irish offense thrived despite two turnovers and the loss of two starting offensive linemen.

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