No. 17 Duke Blue Devils QB Riley Leonard soars for Notre Dame's visit.

Notre Dame faces No. 17 Duke this weekend, its second-straight top-20 opponent and second-straight unblemished opponent. 

This is likely the Blue Devils' biggest game. Even during Steve Spurrier's best years in Durham, Duke was unranked before or after its 1989 upset of No. 7 Clemson. 

Spurrier's final season ended with the Blue Devils being ranked in the penultimate week before moving to Florida.

The 2013 ACC championship game saw Duke lose 45-7 against No. 1 and eventual national champion Florida State, ending David Cutcliffe's Duke career. As 30-point underdogs at a neutral location, this Saturday night (7:30 ET on ABC) is a larger event for the Blue Devils.

To investigate these remarkable Duke triumphs, we turn to Devils Illustrated publisher Conor O'Neill. Let's go chronologically. Start with Mike Elko's December 2021 hiring.

Notre Dame supporters last saw Elko leave South Bend after one season to work at Texas A&M. He didn't want to leave Notre Dame, but back-and-forth discussions forced the administration to decline another increase, and the Aggies' money drew Elko to the SEC. 

Texas A&M and Notre Dame may position Elko for a head coaching job like he has now, but a $5.4 million offer is hard to refuse. Was Duke's hiring of Elko surprising? What was the coaching search like?

When the job opened, I put him on the original “five candidates to know” list, so I wasn't surprised. Please ignore “Will Healy” and “Josh Gattis” on the same list. Duke choosing a defensive-minded coach was the only surprise, but that was the theme of the 2021 hiring cycle.


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