Academics will briefly take a rest in favor of college football for Duke and Northwestern this weekend. The Blue Devils will host the Wildcats at noon EST on Saturday, September 9, at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. The game can be seen on ESPNU.
Northwestern is currently listed as 3-point favorites on the road. Click here for a full list of Week 2 betting odds and links to game previews.
Northwestern vs Duke: Vegas Game Odds & Betting Predictions
Northwestern escaped Week 1 with a win over a tough Nevada team. The Wildcats trailed by 10 at halftime and after tying the game in the 3rd quarter trailed by a field goal midway through the 4th quarter. However, quarterback Clayton Thorson ran the ball in from the 1-yard line twice in the last six minutes to lead Northwestern to what on paper looks like a comfortable win rather than a game that required a furious 4th quarter comeback.
It wasn’t exactly how the Wildcats drew it up, but Thorson was most impressive in the season opener. In addition to rushing for two touchdowns, the junior threw for 352 yards and two more touchdowns. He showed great chemistry with senior wide receiver Bennett Skowronek, who doubled his career total of eight receptions in the opener against Nevada.
Duke had a little easier time during the season’s opening weekend, blowing out FCS opponent North Carolina Central 60-7. By halftime, the Blue Devils had built a 47-7 lead, allowing them to put things on cruise control during the second half. As impressive as Duke may have been against a weak opponent, we didn’t get a chance to learn much about the Blue Devils from such a one-sided affair.
Free College Football Betting Selection: Northwestern -3
A lot is being asked of Northwestern as road favorites, but I believe the Wildcats are up to the task. The defensive side of the ball is Northwestern’s biggest strength, and defense typically travels better than offense. Nevada’s quarterback Ty Gangi completed just 16 of his 37 pass attempts against the Wildcats, who lived up to the preseason hype of being stout on the defensive side of the ball.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones looked sharp last week against North Carolina Central, but playing well against an FCS opponent doesn’t necessarily prepare him to face a defense like the one Northwestern has. Jones wasn’t able to perform all that great last season against teams with quality defenses. The silver lining for Jones is that he rarely turned the ball over the second half of last season, and avoiding turnovers this week should at least keep the Blue Devils in the game.
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On the other side of the ball, the questions about Duke’s defense heading into the season are hardly answered after holding an FCS opponent to seven points. The good news is that the Wildcats aren’t exactly a juggernaut on offense.
Thorson’s heroics helped them put 31 points on the scoreboard against Nevada. But running back Justin Jackson needed 30 carries to reach 109 yards. This says that the Wildcats are committed to running the ball but not necessarily that effective at it. Duke’s defensive questions are more on the back side than up front, so it may be tough for Northwestern to establish a great ground attack. This game could fall on Thorson’s shoulders to make plays in key spots.
Any way you slice it, this looks like a close matchup. However, Northwestern’s defense and quarterback are both more reliable at this point in the season than Duke’s. The Wildcats were also challenged last week and forced to come from behind to win. Northwestern is ready to go on the road a beat a solid Duke team by at least a touchdown.