Duke vs. Northern Illinois Quick Lane Bowl Preview

Photo by Chris Summerville

When: Tuesday, December 26, 2017. 5:15 pm

Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan

Television: ESPN

Line: Duke -5.5

Last Time: No previous meetings

Game Preview

The Blue Devils surprisingly rebounded from a six game losing streak to win their final two games and earn a bowl bid for the fourth time in five seasons.  After a promising 4-0 start, Duke seemed dead in the water with one frustrating performance after another before flipping the script against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in the final two weeks of the season.  The Blue Devils will look to carry that momentum to Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl against the Huskies from Northern Illinois.

The Duke defense will catch a break as the Huskies leading rusher Jordan Huff will miss the Quick Lane Bowl with an ankle injury.  Huff averaged 5.8 yards per carry, so his absecense will certainly be felt. Duke got some good injury news leading up to the game as linebacker Ben Humphreys is expected to return after missing the final two games of the regular season.  The Duke secondary will be tested by Northern Illinois quarterback Marcus Childers. They’ll have to face him without veteran safety Jeremy McDuffie.  Childers completes just above 57% of his passes but has thrown 15 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions.  Childers also had 459 rushing yards and 5 more touchdowns on the ground.  The Duke defensive front has played well all year and will need to continue that strong play to contain the Huskies offense.

Northern Illinois’ strength this season has been on the defensive side of the ball. The Huskies have given up an average of just 20.8 points per game.  Sutton Smith has been a monster, piling up 29 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 touchdowns. The Duke offensive line has struggled with pass protection this year, so it will take some special game planning by the coaching staff and execution by the line to keep Smith off of Daniel Jones.  The Blue Devils saved their season by balancing out the offense and leaning more on running backs Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown.  The Huskies have a stout rushing defense.  They’ve given up just 2.8 yards per carry this season.  It will be important for Duke to stay balanced and find ways to keep Wilson and Brown involved.  They are Duke’s two best players and the Blue Devils will need contributions from them to win the game.  It will also be important for Daniel Jones to not get rattled and make good decisions if he needs to carry the offense for stretches.

This game has the makeup of a defensive struggle.  If Duke can break a few big plays on offense it could be the difference in a win or a loss.

All stats provided by sports-reference.com 

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