Notre Dame (7-1) hosts Duke (7-5) this Sunday at noon, ESPNU, right before we all plop on the couch for the Masters.
Duke beat Notre Dame to win the national championship in 2010 and 2014, and demolished the Fighting Irish at home 15-7 in the 2014 regular season matchup the last time the two played at Arlotta. Notre Dame returned the favor last year pounding the Blue Devils 15-10 in Durham, only to drop the next in the ACC semifinals 8-13. Despite having a very average record, Duke has taken to twitter to engage in some light trash-talk ahead of Sunday's matchup. Fair enough.
Duke started the season ranked #3 and scores goals by the bushel, but have some very inexplicable losses to Harvard, Richmond, Air Force and North Carolina. All decent teams, but should not be in the same category as Duke. Series with ND stands at Duke 10-ND 6.
*Stopping Myles Jones (51 points), Deemer Class (35 goals), and Justin Guterding (49 points): These guys score a lot of goals, with the 6'5" 245 lb. Jones getting most of the attention as he can simple shove defenders out of the way. The challenge is that Jones and Class are midfielders, so it's hard to match up Landis or Epple on them. Sexton, Koshansky, Gaiss, Crance, and the rest of the defensive midfield will really need to stand tall. This is probably the most awkward matchup for the Notre Dame defense to date.
*Duke's defense is suspect: The Irish offense needs to build on their Syracuse success and put the screws to the Duke defense that gives up 10.5 a game and has a goalie that stops less than half his shots. Single-digit goal total will not do it.
*The Ride: ND clear at a .908, and they hold their opponents to a stunning rate of .728. Duke comes into the game with a pedestrian clear rate of .834. The Irish ride will need to exploit this and get lots of easy goals in transition.
*Will Epple start? Landis' chief sidekick on defense came back from injury last week for a few minutes of game time. ND have performed well without him and should do even better with him, if, and only if, there is no drop off in communication as a result of his long absence. The D cannot afford to have Duke running them around in a carousel.
Our thoughts? The regular season games, in contrast to the post-season matches, have not been close in recent years. Someone is likely to get thumped. As ND's defense has been so good this year, the hope is that it's the Irish who are doing the pounding.
We'll be curious at how the coverage goes in regard to the Tewaaraton Trophy. ESPN's Eamon McAnanney seems very pro-Landis, Quint Kessenich very pro-Myles Jones. Mano y Mano on the field for Landis and Jones, should be interesting.