This isn't how either Duke or Notre Dame envisioned things would be when the Blue Devils traveled this weekend to South Bend. But here they are, with both the Blue Devils and Irish off to 1-2 starts. Notre Dame is already out of the College Football Playoff, and now the Irish are playing to make another New Year's Six Bowl. (So's Duke, technically.)
Notre Dame enters after a humbling at home against Michigan State, which had been cruising until a late Notre Dame charge made the game look closer than it really was. Duke comes off a loss to Northwestern, which had been struggling at 0-2 and desperately needed to beat someone. The Blue Devils were a willing sacrifice.
So, the backdrop here is quite grim. Someone's season will look pretty ruined come Saturday evening, but somebody else will have, at least, a potential springboard to getting back on track. That's something, isn't it?
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC. The broadcasters are Mike Tirico, Doug Flutie, and Kathryn Tappen.
Online streaming: NBC Sports
Spread: The Irish opened as 20-point favorites.
Three big things to know
1. The Irish offense has been weird. Notre Dame's gone from 5.8 to 6.1 to 6.5 yards per play over the first three weeks of the season. But that's accompanied declining points totals, from 47 to 39 to 28. Turnovers haven't been any kind of huge problem, and it's hard to peg why Notre Dame hasn't found more success with an ostensibly smoother offense under quarterback DeShone Kizer. The offense has had a hard time finding big plays, and that's definitely not helped.
2. Duke's offense is brutal. The Blue Devils have only allowed 18 points per game, though they've given up 24 in back-to-back weeks against Northwestern and Wake Forest. There have been chances to win, but in those two games against lousy FBS competition, they've scored 14 and 13 points. That just doesn't do it, and the peripheral numbers haven't been good either. The Blue Devils are averaging 5.2 yards per play, 94th in the country.
3. At least Notre Dame's finishing drives? The Irish have had a hard time moving the ball up the field at points (mostly last week), but once they get inside the opposing 40-yard line or so, they've scored better than most. Once the Irish get a first down inside the 40, they're scoring 6.3 points per possession – the 10th-best rate in the country – but they've failed to move the ball on too many drives.