Prediction Friday: Duke

The ‘Cats are home from a successful trip to Ireland and back at familiar Ryan Field to take on a very familiar opponent in Duke. In a surprising turn, Northwestern is a 10 point favorite against the Blue Devils. Let’s see how the predictions stack up for week two.

TRENT

It feels like the ‘Cats have played Duke every year since the beginning of the Obama presidency. Maybe even Bush. Senior.

Seriously, can we find a more interesting non-conference opponent? It’s getting a little tedious matching up against the Blue Devils every year – there are 150 other programs out there, for Cutcliffe’s sake.

The first ‘Cats game I went to was against Duke, at home in 2007. That fateful day at Ryan Field we snapped an absurdly long Duke losing streak, by blowing a lead in the fourth quarter.

The Blue Devils have had the better of the ‘Cats in recent years – winning the last three matchups, and some of them in blowout fashion.

Duke shut out a suspect Temple team in week 1, while the ‘Cats were obviously resting on their Irish laurels last week. For some reason, the Vegas gods came together and made Northwestern a 10 point home favorite this week. What evidence is there that the ‘Cats are better than Duke? 

We all know by now that the ‘Cats are great as underdogs, and terrible as home favorites. Being a double digit favorite against a team that beat us last year has me a little freaked out, ngl.

Game Summary: 

Duke has a solid dual threat QB, which always gives us trouble. I think they’ll put up some points in this game and turn it into a rare shootout for the ‘Cats. It’ll be on Northwestern’s offense to keep pace behind a running back duo that may be the best unit on our team. Fitz is smart enough to know Duke’s run defense is lacking, and pound it again and again on the ground to grind out drives and chew up time. We’ll also need another solid game out of Hilinski in order to keep the defense on the heels with some play action. This game scares the heck out of me, and I could easily see us losing (that would be a typical ‘Cats move). But, if we can control the line of scrimmage as we did against Nebraska, I like the ‘Cats in a squeaker.

Game Score: NU 33 – Duke 30

Play of the Game: Evan Hull takes a screen pass to the barn.

Player(s) to Watch: The offensive line. They played a fantastic game in week zero. If they control the line of scrimmage this Saturday, we can and should win the game. It’s amazing how a solid line helps solve a lot of other problems.

Warrior to Watch: Paul. First game as a newlywed. Will the ‘Cats give him a win as a wedding present?

Other Game to Watch: Alabama – Texas. Not because this game will be close, but because it won’t be close. I find it hilarious that Texas is switching conferences and is bound for life as a middle-low tier SEC team. They couldn’t even beat Kansas last year. Expect Bama to show the Horns a preview of what they’re in for on Saturday.

DOC ROCHE

Game Summary:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Game Score: Duke 28 – ‘Cats 21

Play of the Game: Cam Porter breaks a long run for a TD to tie the game in the 4th

Player(s) to Watch: Hillinski. Same as it ever was 

Warrior to Watch: Roger. I eat his Blood Pressure’s finally under control. 

Other Game to Watch: White Sox – Athletics. The AL central is butt this year. So the barely-.500 white sox are within striking distance of the Guardians. They need to clean up when they play sun .500 squads.

HACK

God save Ireland, said the heros God save Ireland, said they all.
Whether on the scaffold high or the battlefield we die, oh what matter when for Éirinn we fall.

Ireand’s College Football team remembers last year and crushes the Blue Devils.

Cats 45 – Duke 6

Play of the Game: Hilinski to Navarro for a 68 yard touchdown on the first play of the game.

Cat to Watch – O Line – Only puked 4 times in camp, so do they have stamina?

Warrior to Watch: Paul – He’s married and the Cats don’t lose when Warriors are in Europe

Game to watch: Bama @ Texas – Is Quinn Evers good? Is Texas back? Will Bama win by 50? All three could happen

A DAY

I hate this matchup. The ‘Cats have lost 3 in a row to the Dukies, and they always seem to give us trouble (even when they shouldn’t). On the bright side, with a win the ‘Cats would tie the all-time series against Duke at 11-11. Both teams are riding high off of their first games of the season. Duke looked strong, shellacking a bad Temple team. The ‘Cats offense showed promise… but after a lackluster (at best) from the Huskers in Week 1, it is hard to judge just how improved that unit is. I guess that’s why you play the games.

Game Summary: Honestly I have no clue. I think Duke is going to score some points, and I think the ‘Cats will score a few as well. I think this one is close, and the ‘Cats are able to eek out another close win by running out the clock in the final minutes.

Game Score: ‘Cats 24 – Duke 21

Play of the Game: Cam Porter TD run from ‘Cats territory.

Player to Watch: It’s Hilinski again, but this time with a little more optimism (lol)

Warrior to Watch: ZVon – Is he even a Warrior anymore? I texted him an ad for Bud Light Pro V1s and he seemed to like them.

Game to Watch: Iowa vs Iowa State – After many years of watching an inept ‘Cats offense, the cringe factor of the Hawkeye offense brings me pure joy. Inject it straight into my veins (and take Iowa St. +3.5).

ROGER

I agree with Trent here. Playing Duke annually is getting really boring. I remember going to see Northwestern play at Wallace Wade Stadium back in 1996. I was 9 years old. We’ve been doing this nearly every year since.

It’s also worth pointing out that this game has meant absolutely nothing more often than not. Sure, it counts as a win or a loss which is relevant if you’re trying to achieve bowl eligibility, but the game itself has not been a good measuring stick for either team in recent years. Look back to 2018 when the ‘Cats lost to Duke at home and then subsequently won the B1G West going away. Duke was terrible that season. The ‘Cats were quite good.

Anyways, the game will still be played in front of 17,000 screaming fans on Saturday at 11am.

Shockingly, the ‘Cats looked half decent in Week 0 over in Dublin. Are they actually half decent or is Nebraska really that bad? Or was it the Dublin element? Or was it Andy Day’s attendance? Who knows. But, they showed signs of being a reasonable football team. The offensive line was brilliant. The defensive line was half decent – particularly inside against the run – and the QB play was the best we’ve seen in several years. 

Meanwhile, Duke beat Temple 30 – 0 in Week 1 and had a fairly balanced offensive attack. The offensive part is not surprising given that former NU receivers coach Kevin Johns is now coordinating at Duke. He was always destined for greener pastures. That said, he and Fitz never got along particularly well and had quite the fallout when he left in 2011 to go to Indiana. The defensive part of Duke’s performance was a little more surprising. But, my sources say Temple is absolutely putrid once again so I’m not sure what to make of that score.

Game Summary: I really don’t expect Hilinski to play as well as he did against Nebraska. But, I don’t think he necessarily needs to. If the offensive line picks up where they left off and the stable of running backs does their thing, then the ‘Cats will be able to move the ball.

Defensively, the edge needs to be a bit more sound containing Duke’s QB on broken plays. Thompson didn’t run nearly as often as I expected in Week 0, but Leonard (Duke’s QB) is surely going to try.

Duke will move the ball… particularly early.. as the ‘Cats D settles in for a different look. I actually think Duke will jump out with 2 scores early, but the ‘Cats will be able to move the ball well themselves. Look for a close one at half… 17 – 14 Duke.

I’m cautiously optimistic that NU is better in the trenches and will show that in the 2nd half. Some ground and pound will net a 28 – 17 Cats lead heading into the 4th where they’ll hold on for a 35 – 24 win.

Game Score: NU 35 – Duke 24

Player to Watch: Hilinski. He was quite good against Nebraska. Can he back that up with another solid performance?

Warrior to Watch: How about Doc Roche. Is he on call during the game?

Other Game(s) to Watch: The Premier League. Will they play this weekend? God save the queen!

PAUL

Cats – 28

Devils – 17

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