Clemson leads the all-time series between these teams 37-16, and they’re working on a current five-game win streak. Those five games have been decided by an average margin of 31 points. Will Clemson pick up another decisive win here? Or will Duke’s impressive 2022 continue into an upset result? Keep reading to find predictions, best bets, and more for this Monday night college football showdown.
Clemson Tigers Vs. Duke Blue Devils Prediction & Pick
Clemson enters this game on the heels of an 11-3 season and their seventh ACC championship in the last eight years. That level of success would hardly be seen as disappointing for most teams in the country, but Clemson hasn’t been back to the College Football Playoff since Trevor Lawrence left for the NFL following the 2020 season.
To help turn around an offense that scored just 26.3 points per game last season – 82nd out of 131 FBS teams – head coach Dabo Swinney brought in former TCU offensive coordinator Garrett Riley to run up the scoreboard in Death Valley. Riley is tasked with establishing Cade Klubnik, the top quarterback recruit in the 2022 class per 247Sports, as one of the best passers in the country.
Duke’s pass defense struggled at times last season and should afford Klubnik opportunities to hit the ground running – or passing, rather – and that’s why I’m taking Clemson to cover the spread here. The Tigers return plenty of defensive talent to shut down somewhat of a one-dimensional, run-heavy Duke offense, and it won’t be easy to run against that Clemson front seven.
I’m comfortable taking Clemson up to a flat -14 in this game as I see a 20+ point victory for them. If you’re looking to make a play on the total, I’d advise targeting the specific team totals. Clemson is set at 34.5 and Duke is at 20.5 on DraftKings – I’d sooner take the over on Clemson and the under on Duke before betting the full game total one way or another.
Clemson Tigers Vs. Duke Blue Devils Odds
We’re looking at a pretty hefty 13-point spread for this game. After opening with Clemson as 10.5-point favorites, the spread was bought out over the offseason to the current number. The under has also taken significant money as it’s dropped from a total of 58.5 to 55.5. Clemson has remained at around a -450 to -500 favorite on the Moneyline.
Clemson Tigers Vs. Duke Blue Devils Key Matchups
Cade Klubnik vs. Duke’s Secondary
The Clemson offense was broken in 2022, which was shocking after the highly successful years with Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, but things look to get back on track this year. Cade Klubnik could be the next highly drafted Clemson quarterback with Riley now guiding his development.
Riley should be a boon for an offense that ranked just 115th in explosiveness last year – his TCU offense was 12th. TCU also ranked ninth in points per game and Max Duggan was a Heisman finalist despite not even being the starter at the beginning of the year. The Clemson offense offers more talent to work with, especially with Klubnik, so that level of success could arguably be a baseline this season.
Cade Klubnik’s accuracy is UNREAL 😳
Klubnik has reportedly taken “major steps” since last season and looks primed for a big season according to many of his teammates.
Dabo Swinney (Clemson HC) said he has “similar feelings” when it comes to Cade that he did with Deshaun… pic.twitter.com/mN8OePnD3h
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 30, 2023
While Duke is coming off its first nine-win season since 2014, not everything was roses. The pass defense struggled mightily, ranking 105th in EPA. The Blue Devils couldn’t get off the field on third downs as they had a below average pass rush and ranked 125th in success rate on passing downs.
Duke didn’t play many elite quarterbacks in 2022, but when they did, it spelled trouble. Check out the results of the top passers on their schedule last season:
- Kansas’s Jalon Daniels – 19 of 23 passing for 324 yards and 4 TDs
- North Carolina’s Drake Maye – 28 of 38 passing for 340 yards and 3 TDs
- Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman – 26 of 42 passing for 347 yards and 3 TDs
Even Emmett Morehead, who barely has 1,300 career passing yards to his name, completed 27 of 45 passes for 330 yards and 4 TDs against Duke. This all spells trouble against what could be one of the best passing offenses in the country in Clemson.
Graduate transfers Al Blades Jr. (Miami FL) and Myles Jones (Texas A&M) were brought in to help shore up the cornerback room, while safety Jeremiah Lewis returns after a one-year stint at Northwestern. However, it’s tough to assume we’ll see immediate improvement, and they’ll likely struggle to contain the likes of Antonio Williams and Beaux Collins.
Duke’s run game vs. Clemson’s front seven
Duke had just a 46.9% pass play rate, which was about middle of the pack in the FBS, but the Blue Devils are at their best when they can establish the run. Duke was 12th in rushing EPA last season and brings back the entire backfield of quarterback Riley Leonard and running backs Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters.
Leonard was the first player in Duke program history to have 20+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns in a single season, but he’s not someone you want consistently passing from behind the sticks with pressure in his face. Establishing a ground presence is crucial to his success.
Riley Leonard with the 74 yard touchdown run! pic.twitter.com/eS3XFcsE52
— Blue Devils (@BlueDevils) October 16, 2022
Clemson had an elite run defense last season, ranking 10th in EPA and 22nd in success rate against the run. Defensive linemen Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy were first-round picks in the NFL draft, but the line reloads as usual for Clemson. First Team All ACC defensive tackle Tyler Davis returns alongside Ruke Orhorhoro and Xavier Thomas.
Keep an eye out for true freshman Peter Woods as the next great Clemson defensive lineman. ESPN’s top-ranked non quarterback recruit, Woods had a great offseason and is ready to make an early impact. Elite linebacker tandem Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Barrett Carter back up the defensive line.