The Clemson Tigers want to keep pace with the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC, Atlantic Division, race, but to do so, they’ll need to survive a tricky road trip to Durham this Saturday night. Read our preview/play before making your own college football picks.


While the Blue Devils are 6-3 and bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994, they’re still viewed with an air of skepticism. They are 13-point home underdogs at Bodog for this contest

The Tigers can win because…

Sammy WatkinsClemson has bigger and better athletes than Duke – don't allow your mind to become any more cluttered or your reasoning to become more muddled as you analyze this game. It really is as simple as that. The Tigers have so much NFL talent at the running back and receiver positions, with Andre Ellington as a next-level ball carrier and Sammy Watkins as a lethal threat on the edges. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has so many weapons to throw to, so many choices he can make when he surveys the field from a spread formation. Duke's secondary and linebackers are going to be spread wide and stretched thin. The Blue Devils have been admirably plucky and resilient on defense this season, but they're going to be overmatched by Clemson's heavy artillery. 

What also has to be said about this matchup is that in the past Clemson lacked the mental toughness needed to take care of inferior opponents. Now, Clemson is a more mature team, thanks largely to the improvements made to the offense by coordinator Chad Morris, who, it can be argued, has transformed the program more than head coach Dabo Swinney. (It can be said that Swinney has transformed the program only because he had the wisdom and foresight to hire Morris in the first place.) Clemson didn't fool around on Oct. 25 when it dismantled Wake Forest in a Thursday night national-television game. It shouldn't mess around with Duke, either, in what is also a national-TV tussle. 

The Blue Devils can win because… 

Duke knows it will have to score a lot of points just to stay close to Clemson, but that's precisely the point – the Blue Devils are in a position to score a lot. 

Clemson's defense is awful. The Tigers allowed Florida State to score 35 points in the second half (actually, those points were posted in a time period that was several minutes less than 30) of the Sept. 22 game that has the Tigers in second place, not first, in the ACC Atlantic. Clemson conceded large chunks of yards to Boston College and Georgia Tech, displaying a lack of quality that is shocking for a school that – despite its presence in the ACC – cares about football with a fervor normally reserved for a Southeastern Conference program. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables has not been able to expunge bad habits from Clemson's defense. 

Duke's offense – while not fast – is clever. Head coach David Cutcliffe has instilled a read-based offense that puts defenses on a pendulum. When defenses expect the run, quarterback Sean Renfree fakes the handoff and throws an intermediate pass in the seams for 12 yards. When defenses expect a pass, Renfree hands the ball off and gives his offense a five-yard gain. Duke plays keep-away and steadily moves the ball in this manner. Clemson's defense is likely to get quite frustrated by this approach from Duke. If the Blue Devils can create a few home-run plays with their offense, they can create enough in-game pressure to rattle Clemson's offense. A 42-38 win is hardly out of the question for Duke, one of the feel-good stories of the season in college football. 

Outlook & NCAA Football Betting Prediction: 

Duke will score at least 30, but Clemson will probably score well over 40 points. The Tigers have too much firepower for the Blue Devils, though Duke will be able to cover the spread

NCAA Football Picks: Duke +13