Over the last thirty years, the Duke Blue Devils have established itself as one of the premier programs in both College Basketball and College Lacrosse, having won five titles in the the former and three titles in the later. Duke has a football team. Between the two sports, they’ve only missed four NCAA tournaments since 1992 and been to over two dozen final fours, truly fixtures in their sports. Duke plays football!
This article was easy. David Cutcliffe was Peyton Manning’s coordinator and mentor at Tennessee. After Peyton graduated, Cutcliffe “$omehow” ended up at Ole Mi$$, where he coached the younger brother, Eli. Peyton and Eli went on to win multiple Super Bowls each and combined to win 5 league MVP awards (Well, yes, Peyton won all five but shut up, it’s fine, just go with it). Even with the responsibility of being Duke’s head football coach, David Cutcliffe still had time every off season to work with Peyton and Eli.
Then there’s Cooper Manning, the oldest Manning brother who was forced to quit football due to a medical condition before his freshman year at Ole Miss. One might call him, the forgotten Manning brother. Every holiday at Archie’s, Eli and Peyton are off yucking it up with the adults, flashing their super bowl rings, while poor ol’ Cooper is sitting at the kids table drinking welch’s sparkling juice and cleaning gravy off his khakis. That’s Duke Football.
Easily the most forgettable ACC football team, you’re almost surprised to see them playing football, like seeing that one old man at McDonald’s in the morning eating hotcakes, “Oh yeah, McDonald’s serves pancakes!” The list of accomplishments Duke Football lays out there is pretty similar to Cooper’s football accomplishments. They’ve had but one double digit win season in their programs history (2013, 10-4), their most recent conference championship was under Steve Spurrier(!) in 1989.
This isn’t just going to be a dunk-a-thon on Cooper Manning and Duke Football though. Both have been surprisingly successful in recent years. Cooper has pivoted from a life in the energy investment industry, to being a regular on FOX’s NFL Kickoff show. If you’ve never caught one of Cooper’s segments, they are absolutely worth tracking down, as he is downright hilarious and self-depreciating.
Duke Football is in the midst in it’s most successful stretch in their programs history. David Clucliffe has produced 6th overall pick QB in Daniel Jones, won the programs first(and only) ACC Coastal Division title and even beat Notre Dame in South Bend in 2016! Remember that? Remember when Duke came into Notre Dame stadium and scored 38 points to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?
And then this?
I’m sorry about about that. Have another drink on me, I’m good for it.
There is nothing surprising or different about this Duke team compared to years prior. They are a perfectly above average football team capable of beating teams on their level. They are averaging 29.2 points this year. Last year with Daniel Jones they averaged 29.4 points per game, and in the last 10 years... 28.5 points per game. How they score points this year seems to be a little bit of a smoke and mirrors operation however. First time starter and senior quarterback Quentin Harris is helming the 103rd ranked passing offense, averaging just under 200 yards passing a game. In terms of yards per attempt, you’re looking at one of the very worst in all of college football with just 6.1 yards per attempt. They are way down at 89th in yards per carry at just 3.9. As a battery, Quentin Harris isn’t very impressive as a thrower and the combination of Deon Jackson/Mataeo Durant are underwhelming out of the backfield. (Neither guy has had a 100 yard game) It was a lucky time to get a bye week for Duke as they try to figure out their offense, having failed to score more than 17 points in their last two games during losses to Virginia (14-48) and North Carolina (17-20). Defensively, they are pretty scrappy, giving up just 5.1yards per play. They had a couple of crooked results, a 42-3 loss in the opener to Alabama and that aforementioned Virginia shellacking, that slightly skew their points per game, but 25.9ppg is pretty respectable and very average.
The biggest question for Saturday is what level is Notre Dame currently on? Like I stated earlier, historically under Cutcliffe, Duke beats most the teams on their level. There is as large a talent gap Notre Dame will see against a power five team this year, with a five year recruiting ranking average of 49th for Duke, 12th for Notre Dame.(Duke has signed just six 4* in that time) Just like Cooper Manning, they know they aren’t as good, so they’re going to try and do things a little different. With the added benefit of an extra week to prepare, I would imagine Duke is going to try to mix more of the triple option look they have been showing this season, in an attempt to limit Irish possessions and shorten the game. Having said that, as long as we aren’t treated to a repeat of the Virginia Tech performance, this should be a game that Irish win handily.