I was out of town on business all week, just getting back last night and unable to muster the energy for a reasonably timely Duke preview. But I wanted to get just a few thoughts out there before the game.
As with the Air Force game, I refuse to actually do a traditional preview of the Duke game, breaking down the match-ups to muster an argument for why the Fighting Irish should beat the Blue Devils. That would just be pathetic. We are ND! They are Duke. Ergo, we should win. Match-ups be damned.
That said, the two teams are pretty evenly matched statistically. Both offenses languish far too close to the bottom of the list of 119 Division I schools for effectiveness. Notre Dame's defense, while nothing to write home about, is significantly better than Duke's defense, with the margin coming from the pass defense. Thus, if you had to predict how the game might go, you would figure that we will see mediocrity from both teams running the ball, since neither team has shown any consistent ability to rush the ball or defend against the rush. The old "resistable force meets movable object" conundrum. In the passing game, the Irish figure to keep Duke under wraps, while Notre Dame should be able to throw against the Blue Devils. From this, you'd figure that this could really be a coming out party for Jimmy Clausen, a chance for him to put up some really healthy numbers in a win in front of the home fans.
While I didn't really want to do any sort of a "break down" of today's game, I did have two points I wanted to make before kick-off.
First, I like Duke. As has been noted before here at OC Domer, Duke is one of the few top-tier universities in the nation that fields a Division I football team AND does a great job graduating its student athletes. Also on that list are Stanford, Boston College, Air Force, and Navy - teams which appear on Notre Dame's football schedule. One of the things that makes me most proud of Notre Dame is that it takes seriously the notion of the student-athlete. Student first, athlete second. No cream-puff majors, no athletic dorms, no shameful drop-out rates. We bring these kids in, we make sure they get a world-class education and a Notre Dame degree, and we let them play a little ball while they're here. I believe strongly that we should salute and support other universities that share that vision. One of the ways to do that is to have those teams on our schedule. Thus, I like the fact that we play Stanford, Navy and Duke. When we look at Duke we see an outstanding private university competing at the highest levels of college football. And getting beat up every week. My fear is that when we look at Duke we are seeing our future. I don't think so, but I admit I worry.
Second, It's Senior Day. OC Domer wants to congratulate and thank all those seniors who have stayed the course, through good times and bad, to get to this point. They've seen controversial coaching changes and stuck with it. They've battled through winning seasons and losing seasons, BCS Bowl berths and BCS blow-outs. They have gone to class and study hall in the snow, wind and cold despite all the bumps, bruises and fatigue. They have earned or will shortly receive their degrees. They have come back from injuries. And they have gone out to practice and the games all season long this year and done their best to represent the University of Notre Dame and to try to win football games. The results haven't satisfied anyone but Mark May and Jason Whitlock. But they have stuck with it, and they deserve our respect and our gratitude for that. So OC Domer salutes the seniors as they play their last game in Notre Dame stadium, and I hope for the sake of those young men that the team plays its best game of the year and trounces the Duke Blue Devils.