Nerd Bowl
While this weekend does boast No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Florida, I introduce the two games of greater significance: the Nerd Bowl(s). (Photo by Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

The Nerd Bowl(s): Featuring Four National Powerhouses

While much of the country will be tuned into the matchup in Gainesville between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Florida, I must introduce the two games of paramount concern that could have a more far-reaching effect than the Week 3 SEC duel: the Nerd Bowl. The pair of games will feature four national powerhouses as No. 9 Northwestern faces No. 9 Duke in the mid-afternoon game, with No. 6 Stanford traveling to Nashville to face No. 14 Vanderbilt for the nightcap.

You may be asking yourself: “Alex, I know good and well those four aforementioned schools are not ranked, nor are they national powerhouses.” And to that my friend, I say this: yes, they are ranked and they are national powerhouses, just not on the gridiron.

U.S. News & World Report released their annual collegiate rankings and these four esteemed universities were each featured in the top 15. You should understand that to these schools, football is not the No. 1 concern – although, it is a high priority item to a decent student population at each respective institution. I, for one, do attend Northwestern – I don’t like bragging about where I go to school, but I felt that it was important to note my allegiances here – and while the student section isn’t always buzzing on Saturdays, the spirit is there nonetheless.

While you may skip the Nerd Bowl action altogether this weekend, just know that for more than 28,000 undergraduate students and thousands more of alumni, these games are of value because bragging rights are on the line. Sure Stanford may have ranked in the top 10, but Vanderbilt gets a chance to even the score in the athletic department. As you already read, both Northwestern and Duke are tied at ninth in the country, so what better way than to settle it than on the gridiron?

Let’s get into how these games could shake out:

The Early Nerd Bowl Game: Northwestern (1-1) vs Duke (1-1)

This is the game I’m excited for.

The Blue Devils get the home field advantage, but – hopefully – that isn’t going to stop the Pat Fitzgerald train from rolling straight through Durham, NC. You’re going to get two teams that like to get downhill and will run the ball a ton. Northwestern has a running back by committee approach with Evan Hull and Anthony Tyus III sharing touches in the backfield. Hull had a massive game against Indiana State (22 carries, 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns) and will look to continue that momentum against Duke. On the other side of the coin, David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils rely heavily on senior Mataeo Durant who has 44 carries, 296 yards rushing and six touchdowns through two games.

Truthfully, I don’t know what to make of this game. Northwestern got handled by Michigan State at home to start the season. The defense looked a lot better in Week 2 but the questions remain. Duke, on paper, is statistically better in several categories, but after a loss to Charlotte on opening night, the naysayers still outnumber the confident Duke faithful. Northwestern struggled against the Spartans’ run game and Durant is a quality running back, so the Wildcats have to win at the line of scrimmage – hopefully they’ve studied as much as the McCormick engineering majors do (that was a NU joke). Offensively for the ‘Cats, QB1 Hunter Johnson needs to have a big night and exploit the Blue Devils secondary, while Duke QB Gunnar Holmberg is going to sling it.

It could be a boring game. It could be a shootout. Again, I have no idea. All I know is that it will be better than Alabama-Florida.

The line as of Tuesday, 9/14: Northwestern -3.0

O/U as of Tuesday, 9/14: 49.5

The Late Nerd Bowl Game: Stanford (1-1) vs Vanderbilt (1-1)

The Cardinal face the Commodores and this game certainly favors the former. Stanford is coming off the heels of an away win at No. 14 USC, while Vanderbilt enters the game on a high after beating Colorado State by three at home. I have less riding on this one and the game, in all likelihood, should be a blow out. Just like Stanford trumped Vanderbilt in the rankings, I think they will smack them on the field too. They are riding high and I just do not think the Commodores could pull off the upset against the California academic giants. Cardinal: 2, Vanderbilt: 0 (in the month of September).

The line, as of Tuesday, 9/14: Stanford -12.0

O/U as of Tuesday, 9/14: 49

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