Duke Blue Devils (6-6) vs Northern Illinois Huskies (8-4) — Duke -3, O/U 47.5 — 5:30 PM EST
This game features two scrappy teams that like to pound the football and boast solid defenses, and both of which lost numerous close games this season. They both feature mobile, run-first quarterbacks (Daniel Jones at Duke, Marcus Childers at NIU), running with a bevvy of talented backs. However neither has wowed in the passing game, and versus talented from sevens they’ll need to take to the air with some success.
The Duke defense is led by a great set of linebackers, notably sophomore All-FAMerican Joe Giles-Harris (117 total tackles, 15 for loss), and they possess the speed and talent to bottle up the NIU read-option. NIU meanwhile has an undersized but very athletic front seven, and they are led by unanimous All-American/FAMerican Sutton Smith, a 6-0 220-pound blur from his end spot, who led the nation in sacks (14) and TFL (29). He’s joined by Josh Corcoran at the other end spot, and linebackers senior Bobby Jones IV and junior Jawuan Johnson, and all four like Smith are tenacious attacking defenders.
— Josh Tolentino (@JCTSports) December 20, 2017
That said, we think this game skews towards the defense, and low scoring. NIU has an edge in the kicking game, as Duke’s punter/kicker was dismissed from the program, and that could come into play. Huskies struggle early against Jones, but get to him late, 22-20 NIU.
NIU edge defender Sutton Smith racked up the nation’s fifth-highest pass-rush productivity this season – while leading all FBS defenders with his 73 total QB pressures. pic.twitter.com/tfqLX6LuUS
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) December 23, 2017