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Northwestern vs. Duke preview: Opponent Q&A with Steve Wiseman of The Herald-Sun

Both teams are in some trouble right now.

Northwestern v Duke Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Every week during football season, we'll be reaching out to opponent SB Nation sites or opponent beat writers to give readers another perspective on Saturday's upcoming game.

The Wildcats continue their homestand with Duke on Saturday night. We talked with Steve Wiseman of the Herald-Sun ahead of the matchup.

Inside NU: The injury of Thomas Sirk threw a wrench in this season before it even started. What are the strengths and weaknesses of his replacement, redshirt freshman Daniel Jones, and what can we expect to see out of him on Saturday?

Steve Wiseman: Jones has a strong, accurate arm and the ability to stretch defenses. What he doesn't have is experience. This will be his third college game. He showed some shakiness last week with three turnovers and took five sacks, some of which fell on him for holding the ball too long. He’s going to be a very good college quarterback. But he's not there yet.

INU: Wake Forest isn't considered a world-beater, but it beat Duke 24-14 last week. What were some of the troubling signs you saw from that matchup?

SW: The turnovers were a very troubling sight, especially when the Blue Devils fumbled six times (losing five) against NC Central the week prior. These mistakes are uncharacteristic for the way Duke has played over the last few seasons. But here they are happening. The other red flag was freshman kicker AJ Reed's two missed field goals. Special teams have often been a way for Duke to beat more talented teams. So far, that's not been the case this season.

INU: Jeremy Cash is gone, but star safety/kick returner DeVon Edwards is still in Durham. What makes him so good?

SW: Edwards is one of the most explosive players in college football even though few around the country know about him. He's fast in the open field and has a quick first step. He can play safety or cornerback. Duke turns him loose on safety blitzes and he's effective there. A fifth-year senior, he's very knowledgeable. His next kick return for a touchdown will be his seventh, which would tie an NCAA record.

INU: Last year, Northwestern dominated Duke up front, but the Wildcats have taken a big step back there. Who do you project has the advantage in both trenches?

SW: This is an area of concern for Duke this season so it's gonna be hard for me to project the Blue Devils to have the edge here. Duke has talent on the defensive front but it is young talent. Three true freshmen are in the rotation at defensive end. The reserves didn't play much against Wake Forest and it cost Duke late so I expect more substitutions on Saturday night. The offensive line had a hard time containing Wake's front four in pass or run situations.

INU: Prediction Time. We've got two desperate teams under the lights on Saturday. Who pulls it out?

SW: Duke has gone 13-3 over its last 16 true road games, which is an amazing statistic when you think about it. That doesn't include neutral-site games but, still. It's impressive. Given how Northwestern has struggled the last two weeks, it would appear to give the Blue Devils an edge. But I haven't seen the things this season that allowed Duke to be so good on the road in past seasons. Duke needs to run the ball well and execute in special teams. Not sure that will happen so I'm gonna go with Northwestern 20-14.