|Notre Dame-Duke Preview|
Senior quarterback Ian Book never has lost his confidence in himself or his teammates on No. 15 Notre Dame.
This season has contained plenty of highs and lows, but Book plans to keep steady as the Fighting Irish (6-2) prepare to visit Duke (4-4) on Saturday evening.
"Look, if you lose your confidence here as a quarterback, you can't play quarterback at Notre Dame," Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly said to reporters this week. "There is just so much noise. So in the recruiting process, it's like question No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, you know, and making sure that you vet that out in the process in terms of what kind of personality does he have, what are his traits, his makeup. Can he handle the noise?
"Those are absolutely crucial. Watching a guy throw the ball around in 7-on-7 is one thing. Can they handle all that is encompassing with this position here at Notre Dame is much more important."
For Book, the answer has been "yes."
The California native has passed for 1,833 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season. He also has rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns, and his performance this weekend could go a long way toward determining whether Notre Dame wins its second game in a row or loses for the second time in the past three weeks.
This also is an important matchup for Duke, which rested last weekend after dropping its previous two games against North Carolina and Virginia on the road. The Blue Devils are 2-1 on their home field this season.
Just as Notre Dame leans on Book, Duke will turn to quarterback Quentin Harris to set the tone. The senior has thrown for 1,500 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season while also rushing for 408 yards and six touchdowns.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has praised Harris for his communication skills.
"I think Quentin understands if you're not 100 percent as a quarterback -- it's the most difficult position to be in -- you find that in practice," Cutcliffe told reporters. "You don't wait until the game to communicate."
Duke running back Deon Jackson also will occupy some of the focus for Notre Dame's defense. He leads the Blue Devils with 487 rushing yards to go along with five touchdowns on the ground.
In the passing game, Duke wide receiver Jalon Calhoun has a team-high 37 catches for 294 yards and three scores.
Victor Dimukeje leads the Blue Devils on the opposite side of the ball with 6 1/2 sacks.
"Good-looking team across the board," Kelly said. "Athletic. Not afraid to pressure you and play man coverage. We're going to have to be on. Offensively, we have not executed at the highest of levels. We are going to have to execute better. The turnovers have to obviously go away."
Tony Jones Jr. leads Notre Dame on the ground with 571 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He is averaging a whopping 6.5 yards per carry, which also is a credit to the Fighting Irish offensive line.
Leading Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool will look to challenge Duke's secondary. He enters the contest with 37 catches for 554 yards and four touchdowns this season.
On defense, Khalid Kareem leads Notre Dame with 4 1/2 sacks. Two others have four -- Jamir Jones and Julian Okwara.
--Field Level Media