College Football Week 2 Picks: Northwestern Wildcats at Duke Blue Devils

Northwestern – Duke
Time: 11 AM CT; Saturday, 9 Sept 2017.
Spread: NW -3
Total: 55

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Duke Blue Devils won huge in Week 1, overpowering North Carolina Central 60-7 in a game that never resembled anything close. Duke was up by a commanding 47-7 lead at the half, and cruised through the second half. Daniel Jones was nearly impeccable, throwing 19 of 25 for 213 yards and two TDs without any interceptions.

It gave backup QBs Quentin Harris and Parker Boehme some snaps in the second half, and the less touted pair threw another combined 7 of 9 for 68 yards.

Duke had 281 passing yards—and that was only half the damage, really.

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The Blue Devils rushed for another 243 yards, with Brittain Brown leading the way with his 120 yards on 10 carries (12 per). Shaun Wilson had 59 yards on nine carries, including a TD, and the Blue Devils managed four rushing TDs. The North Carolina Central Eagles were not able to get much going with just 94 passing yards and 64 rushing yards in the game.

Duke’s defense looked outstanding against the likes of the Eagles, but how well will it hold up this week in Week 2 against a much tougher foe in Northwestern? The Wildcats are 3-point favorites even with Duke having home field advantage, and while Northwestern is hardly the toast of the Big Ten, they are a much tougher opponent than Duke’s schedule win in Week 1.

Northwestern won 31-20 over Nevada last week to start its season off 1-0, and after this week against Duke they will take on Bowling Green before facing some tough, ranked teams in Wisconsin and Penn State in Weeks 3 and 4. That makes this game an essential win for Northwestern since it could easily find itself 2-2 after facing the AP ranked teams.

Clayton Thorson threw 28 of 38 for 352 yards in Week 1, and he had two TD passes but did throw one pick.

Star Running back Justin Jackson was his usual, consistent self, rushing for 109 yards, but he needed 30 carries to do it, averaging just 3.6 yards per attempt. No other backfield mates had much of an impact, though Thorson did rush for two TDs himself and he had 15 yards on eight rush attempts.

Thorson’s top receiving target was Bennett Skowronek, who had 123 yards on eight catches, including a long of 48 yards. The Wildcats had six receivers with at least two catches and averaged 12.6 yards per attempt as a team. It was a fairly dominant performance, and it might be able to replicate that success against Duke who is not known to be a top-tier defensive team by any stretch.

The Wildcats had six receivers with at least two catches and averaged 12.6 yards per attempt as a team. It was a fairly dominant performance, and it might be able to replicate that success against Duke who is not known to be a top-tier defensive team by any stretch.

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Duke ranked just No. 78 in pass defense last season, while giving up 239.8 yards to opponents. It did not have a good rush defense either, allowing 174.9 yards (no. 66) and the team gave up 28.2 points per game which ranked No. 66 in the nation. Duke has tried to recruit better athletes and playmakers for its defense, but things take a while to see fruition usually. Duke had just 29 sacks last season, and only 12.5 of those sacks come from returning players. The secondary is going to need some young talents to step up with two sophomores being counted on heavily there this season.

That could be a red flag against Thorson, who is a pretty decent quarterback for the Wildcats. Only Alonzo Saxton returns as a starter in the secondary. The Blue Devils could have an improvement at defensive end, though, with Tre Hornbuckle and Terrell Lucas both expected to be impact players after having just been true freshman a season ago. Ultimately, this game is going to be decided by one thing really: how well Duke can defend a tough Northwestern team that knows it desperately needs

Ultimately, this game is going to be decided by one thing really: how well Duke can defend a tough Northwestern team that knows it desperately needs a victory, against an out-of-conference ACC team that it truly should outclass by more than the 3-point edge college football oddsmakers are rendering this. While the game likely will be as close as oddsmakers anticipate, Northwestern needs this game as a statement and buffer before its schedule lays it on more heavily in Conference play.

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