Win big.

Sorry, but anything else is a loss in my book. I mean, come on people - this is DUKE. 1-9 Duke. 108th in the nation in total offense and 98th in total defense. Four wins in the last four seasons. A team so insignificant in the eyes of the local community that their home crowds look like this:

(Via goduke.com. Ten bucks to anyone who can tell me what the guy on the far right is carrying.)

And yes, I’m well aware that they’ve played well some times this year: beating Northwestern, staying within a couple scores of Virginia, Navy, Miami, and Wake Forest, putting up 24 against Georgia Tech. But it’s Duke, and it’s Senior Day, and it’s DUKE, for heaven’s sake, so anything less than a comfortable margin of victory will leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I almost fear to do this after the Irish failed abjectly in meeting pretty ANY of the “benchmarks” I set for them last week, but here are a few more specific things that I for one would like to see. Let’s start with the offense:

  • 160 yards rushing. The Dukies give up an average of 176.9. There’s no excuse for not coming at least close to that.
  • 4.5 yards per carry. Again, the Blue Devils’ average yield this season has been over 5.0.
  • 250 yards passing. Same story get again: Duke yields 266.0 yards a game through the air. No excuse for not ending up in the vicinity.
  • No more than two sacks. Duke has 21 sacks through ten games. The Irish have given up 17 in their last three. Time to close the turnstiles along the offensive line.

And on defense:

  • Under 70 rushing yards. Duke averages 52.9, last in the NCAA.
  • Under 200 passing yards. Throwing the ball is actually one of the Blue Devils’ stronger points, as they rank 71st with 213.2 yards per game. It would be great to see the Irish defense can come up big in third-and-long situations and keep sophomore quarterback Thaddeus Lewis under that number.
  • Plus-1 in turnovers. If Jimmy Clausen ends up throwing an interception, I can deal with that, though another fumble and I might jump out the nearest window. But Duke has turned the ball over 18 times through their first ten games - there’s no excuse not to force a couple.
  • Get to the quarterback. Obviously this is in part a product of playing option offenses in the last two weeks, but the Irish have a total of ONE sack in their last four games. Obviously the absence of Pat Kuntz will hurt, but ND should be able at least to triple that number with a few well-timed blitzes by defensive backs or edge rushes from the outside linebackers - Duke has given up four sacks a game so far this year.

Put all that together and you’re in a good position to win by at least a couple of touchdowns, which strikes me as the minimum margin of victory against a team like this one.

The fact is that as badly as the Irish played in their last couple of games, Navy and Air Force are both CONSIDERABLY better than Duke. The Blue Devils have been competitive in a lot of their games this year, but that’s probably in part because teams were taking them lightly. Tomorrow’s Senior Day, though, and the 1-9 Irish shouldn’t be looking past ANYONE at this point. Last year’s team would have beaten Duke by a score of 41-10 or something of the like; this year, something along the lines of 28-13 seems big enough.

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