Wake Forest vs Duke Odds, Picks, and Predictions: An Ugly Game Ahead in Durham

Both Duke and Wake Forest are stuck in slumps, and while our college football picks think one of these sides is being mispriced, both teams will struggle to score — read on to find out why.

Nov 2, 2023 • 15:55 ET • 4 min read
Demond Claiborne NCAAF
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

Two teams with injury troubles face a short turnaround in this Thursday night ACC showdown between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4 overall, 1-4 ACC) and Duke Blue Devils (5-3, 2-2).

Both teams are in a bit of a freefall and could use a win in the worst way — Wake Forest has dropped four of its last five games while Duke has lost three of four. 

Checking the college football odds board, Duke is a 12.5-point home favorite while the total is set at a flat 45. What’s the best bet for this midweek clash at Wallace Wade Stadium?

I have my eyes set on the total as both offenses have been stuck in the mud lately. Read on for my best bet and free college football picks and predictions for Wake Forest vs. Duke on Thursday, November 2. 

Wake Forest vs Duke best odds

Wake Forest vs Duke picks and predictions

There are several key injuries to monitor for the Blue Devils, who were without star left tackle Graham Barton, starting corner Myles Jones, and tight end Nicky Dalmolin against Louisville while quarterback Riley Leonard continues to play through discomfort due to an ongoing ankle injury. These are all impact health concerns — Barton is a potential first-round NFL Draft pick who has been out since the Notre Dame game, Jones has the Blue Devils’ highest coverage grade (90.6 per PFF) by a wide margin, but has been limited to just four games due to a hamstring injury, and Dalmolin is the starting tight end. 

Leonard is an NFL Draft prospect thanks primarily to his athleticism. The former high school basketball star’s legs are a huge part of his game and an essential part of this offense. He ran for 699 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago and the offense has cratered since his injury, managing 273 total yards on 4.8 yards per play against Florida State before getting blanked in last week’s 23-0 loss to Louisville in which the offense barely cracked 200 total yards (202) on a measly 4.1 yards per play. 

The passing attack has been dreadful as Leonard and backup Henry Belvin IV have combined to complete just 24 of 62 attempts (38.7%) across their last three games. Duke is down to 94th in EPA per pass on the season and has shown a complete inability to generate big plays through the air, ranking second-last nationally in passing explosiveness. This is a tough spot on a short turnaround with a banged-up lineup, and Wake Forest’s defense has been fine this season, ranking 48th in success rate. 

Duke will want to run the ball repeatedly, but Wake has shown some toughness up front (13th in power success rate) and has stopped opponents in their tracks on the ground (23rd in EPA per rush, 27th in rushing explosiveness). The Blue Devils will still move the ball on the ground a bit (they’re simply too good not to, ranking 16th in EPA per rush while accumulating 179.9 rushing yards per game), but it’s hard to forecast too much offensive success considering Wake hasn’t allowed a single opponent to reach 5.0 yards per carry in a game this year and has allowed just seven rushing scores across eight games. 

Let’s move over to Wake’s offense now. It’s odd to say this about a Dave Clawson team, but the Demon Deacons have struggled mightily on offense. After three straight years averaging at least 36 ppg and six straight years of at least 31 ppg, they’re outside the Top 100 in scoring offense with just 22.2 ppg this season. The advanced metrics are even uglier — Wake ranks 128th in EPA per play and 119th in explosiveness. 

The offensive line has been a disaster, ranking 133rd in front seven havoc, which is perhaps to be expected after losing three all-ACC starters from a year ago. That’s resulted in a team that can’t move the ball at all on the ground (124th in EPA per rush, 128th in rushing explosiveness) and isn’t much better through the air (117th in EPA per pass) while dealing with ineffectiveness from its signal-caller. 

Perhaps quarterback play is more important than folks realized in this scheme, and it’s been masked by the fact that Clawson has had such an effective passer under center for a prolonged stretch but is now feeling the true fallout of Sam Hartman hitting the transfer portal. Mitch Griffis has completed 57.3% of his passes for 1,293 yards while tossing nine touchdowns to six interceptions and is averaging 7.0 yards per attempt — the lowest mark for a Clawson quarterback since 2018 and well below the standard set by Griffis’ predecessors.  

Duke’s secondary has been a no-fly zone (eight in EPA per pass, second in passing explosiveness) and holds a decent advantage in the trenches, so this should be another long day for Wake Forest’s offense on the road and a short turnaround, when Griffis has been playing through injury and has been ineffective regardless. 

Wake is operating with its typical tempo on offense (13th nationally in plays per game) but Duke will look to grind things down to a halt as it ranks second-last nationally, snapping the ball just 58.4 times per contest.

This forecasts as a struggle for two teams dealing with quarterback injuries and a mighty case of offense woes. Give me the Under for what’s a poorly-timed short turnaround game for both squads, as both coaches have been unafraid to admit in press conferences.

My best bet: Under 45 (-110 at bet365)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.

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Wake Forest vs Duke same-game parlay

Under 45 (-110)

Demond Claiborne Anytime TD (+135)

I expect there to be a lot of running in this game between two passing offenses that have been as bad as they come at this level of the sport across the last month. Both teams can barely complete a pass at this juncture, and I don’t expect either to resolve its enormous offensive concerns with a short week to prepare for a conference opponent fighting to get back on track and reach a bowl. 

Clawson has said that his team hasn’t been “functioning at the quarterback position” lately and while he said Griffis played better last week, that wasn’t the case in my eyes, as he completed just six of 16 attempts (37.5%) for 82 yards (5.1 yards per attempt) against Florida State. The Demon Deacons struggle to pass protect and Griffis holds on to the ball way too long with regularity, and the receivers haven’t made the typical impact we see in this scheme. 

That should mean a lot of rushing attempts against a Duke defense that has been susceptible to ground attacks, ranking 121st in PFF’s rush defense grade (62.2) and 113th in tackling (58.2) while checking in at 95th in rushing success rate and 113th in line yards.  The Blue Devils just surrendered 234 rushing yards and two scores on the ground to Louisville, and I like this spot for Wake Forest running back Demond Claiborne to find the end zone at +135 odds considering he has five of his team’s eight rushing touchdowns. 

Learn how to bet a same-game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.

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Wake Forest vs Duke spread and Over/Under analysis

There’s been nothing but Duke love in the market, as the Blue Devils have moved from +9.5 at open to +12.5 at current. The total opened at 45.5 but has since dropped a half-point to 45 across most books. 

This is an interesting spread in that both teams seem to be in a similar situation, yet one is being priced way above the other. Both have been beat up at the quarterback position, have been playing their worst ball of the season, and could badly use a win to instill confidence and get back on the right track. 

Duke is the better football team, holding a significant advantage on both sides of the ball from a metrics perspective. Mike Elko’s squad’s total EPA per play ranking (combining offensive and defensive rankings) is 87, while Wake Forest’s is a gruesome 204. That can hardly be explained away by strength of schedule either, as Duke has had one hell of a road thus far, checking in at seventh in ESPN’s FPI strength of schedule while Wake is a distant 71st. 

It’s such a strange line that it’s difficult to intuitively explain, but I consider intuition to be of little import in the handicapping defense. Duke holds advantages on both sides of the ball and will be playing at home. Mike Elko has done a tremendous job with the program and this is a chance to get back in the win column against a downed opponent that can’t block, run, or throw at a passable level. 

Wake Forest vs Duke betting trend to know

Wake Forest is 0-3 O/U in road games this year and 1-5-2 O/U overall. Going back to last season, it’s 0-5 O/U in its last five road games and 0-6 O/U in its last six ACC conference games. Find more college football betting trends for Wake Forest vs Duke.

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Wake Forest vs Duke game info

Location: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Date: Thursday, November 2, 2023
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN

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