There are plenty of teams that Duke has to worry about losing to this year, Northwestern isn’t one of them.

Yeah, okay, I get it. There are plenty of reasons why consensus thinking has Duke coming up short against Northwestern tomorrow.  First among them: Duke hasn’t won against the Wildcats since 2007. Which is why polls and the consensus are picking the ‘Cats to win a close game by three or four points.

The Consensus Has Its Reasons…

And sure, you can’t blame them. Not everybody knows about Duke’s stellar camp performance. Or the extraordinary play of their freshman and sophomores. You can be forgiven if you don’t know about Duke’s offensive and defensive lines, and their dynamite associate and assistant coaches like Ben Albert and Marcus Johnson.

… But It’s Not Taking Everything Into Account

Coach Cutcliffe is too polite to say it, but Northwestern is a team still stuck in 2016. Like he said in this weeks press conference, watching them play is like “déjà vu“- and he meant it as a compliment. However, with incredibly talented freshman and redshirt athletes now playing, Duke is anything but the same team they were a year ago.

The Consensus is Right About One Thing

On the positive side, the consensus is right in calling this a close game. Well. The score will be close. Maybe Duke will even fall behind in the third quarter before coming back. But, Duke will be firmly in control. Daniel Jones runs a crisp, explosive Duke offense, and the Wildcats secondary is down two cornerbacks.

Duke’s defense is quick and powerful, and Northwestern running back Justin Jackson and quarterback Clayton Thorson will be hard pressed to mount effective drives while they’re being swarmed by a Blue Devils defense led by Tre Hornbuckle, Victor Dimukeje, Joe Giles-Harris, and Drew Jordan.

The Intangible the Consensus Doesn’t See

The “Blue Devils” are in the details, and it’s coaching that will win the game for Duke. As Cutcliffe said earlier this week, “… they’ve been well prepared by their coaches in meetings… So they met this morning, and they took what they talked about to the practice field, and they were able to accomplish it. The difference in a year is that, it wasn’t enough time for us a year ago.”

The difference a year makes is that this time, Duke will beat Northwestern by a touchdown.