Northwestern vs. Duke College Football Odds & Pick: When to Bet Blue Devils (September 18)

Northwestern vs. Duke College Football Odds & Pick: When to Bet Blue Devils (September 18) article feature image

Ryan M. Kelly. Getty Images. Pictured: Duke Blue Devils standout Mataeo Durant.

Northwestern vs. Duke Odds

Saturday, Sept. 18
4 p.m. ET
ACC Network
Northwestern Odds
-105o / -115u
Duke Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Duke and Northwestern have had underwhelming starts to the 2021 college football season, as both lost as favorites in Week 1 before rebounding with uninspiring victories the second time out against FCS schools.

The Wildcats dropped their opener to Michigan State in a blowout, while Duke lost at Charlotte in a thrilling finish. Lackluster wins against Indiana State and North Carolina A&T are unlikely to ease concerns within the fanbases entering Saturday's matchup.

In what's expected to be a toss-up game, the home underdog in Duke is the undervalued side, but only if you can find the right number.

Northwestern Wildcats

The Wildcats were vast overachievers, especially on offense, in the last few seasons.

Appearances in the Big Ten Championship are supposed to be rare and near impossible for a program with the pedigree of the Wildcats, yet they were a fourth quarter away from a stunning upset win over Ohio State.

Northwestern is just 83rd in our Action Network power ratings, seven points ahead of the Blue Devils, who come in 105th overall.

Wildcats Offense

The running game is about the only place where the Wildcats have found any offensive success this season.

The Wildcats are 25th in Rushing Success Rate and 28th in Line Yards, both excellent numbers and improved from last season. They've been unable to establish any type of passing success or explosive plays though, both major concerns against an above-average Duke defense at preventing big plays.

Northwestern is 107th in passing success rate and 93rd in big plays, plus the Wildcats will really struggle to play from behind if they do go down early.

Wildcats Defense

Through two weeks of the season, the defense has seen the most regression. Once an elite Big Ten unit, Michigan State totaled 511 total yards — including 326 on the ground — in the opening game at Ryan Field.

Allowing 8.8 yards per rush is a scary number for a once stout Northwestern front. The Wildcats are 88th in Line Yards and 36th in Rushing Success Rate, but yielded way too many big plays to Michigan State in the opener.

Duke's offense has some explosiveness and should be able to prevent negative plays, due to the fact the Wildcats are just 112th in Havoc created.

Defensively, Northwestern isn't nearly as solid, which is the main driver of its early-season regression and why its under on the win total was a popular pick here at the Action Network.

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Duke Blue Devils

Duke's opening game loss to Charlotte was a little misleading, given how well the offense moved the ball up and down the field.

The Blue Devils ran for 7.9 yards per rush and 352 total yards. Mataeo Durant looked as good as ever and Duke outgunned the 49ers by more than 100 yards. The Blue Devils fumbled twice in Charlotte territory and those turnovers became 49ers touchdowns.

That was enough to swing the game and sour the public perception of this team. They had a sluggish start against NC A&T as well before taking control of the game in the second half, then running away on the scoreline.

Blue Devils Offense

Unlike their opponents, it's very clear to see where the Blue Devils' consistent offense comes from Durant. The Blue Devils are 12th in Line Yards and Rushing Success Rate. They bullied a few smaller fronts in the ACC last year and should be able to do the same in this meeting.

The Blue Devils are 27th in explosiveness and facing a defense that hasn't produced a lot of Havoc through two games.

It's hard to see Northwestern stopping Durant when they couldn't stop Michigan State's rushing attack two weeks ago.

Blue Devils Defense

The Blue Devils' rush defense is one of the few areas of our matchup matrix where it's not statistically the better team through two weeks.

Northwestern should find some success on the ground given the performances of its rush offense, but the lack of explosiveness created by the team or allowed by Duke makes it hard for the Wildcats to sustain drives.

Add in the Blue Devils' advantage on special teams and the Wildcats probably need to win the turnover battle to triumph in this road game.

Northwestern vs. Duke Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Northwestern and Duke match up statistically:

Northwestern Offense vs. Duke Defense




Rush Success2552
Line Yards2859
Pass Success10786
Pass Blocking*10382
Big Play9350
Finishing Drives86116
* Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Duke Offense vs. Northwestern Defense




Rush Success1236
Line Yards1288
Pass Success2584
Pass Blocking*2783
Big Play2789
Finishing Drives41106
* Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling8219
PFF Coverage95116
Middle 83113
SP+ Special Teams10215
Plays per Minute893
Rush Rate58.7% (43)56.9% (58)

Data via College Football Data (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF & SportSource Analytics.

Northwestern vs. Duke Betting Pick

Three is a key number in football and the most valuable betting number when you're crossing over the key number threshold.

This line was on three most of the week but dropped to 2.5 as of this writing. I can't recommend a play on the Blue Devils at 2.5 in what looks like a toss-up game, but if the three appears again prior to kickoff, take the Blue Devils and the points as small home underdogs.

Duke has the statistical advantage in almost every major category, albeit against a much weaker schedule than Northwestern has played so far.

The Wildcats are atop the fade list all season because of their over-performance last year and lack of returning production, so going against them on an overinflated line is never a bad idea.

Pick: Duke +3

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