The 2014 Duke football schedule has been released. The Blue Devils ought to smile as they look over it.
30 Elon (FCS, 2-10)
6 at Troy (6-6)
13 Kansas (3-9)
20 Tulane (7-6; 24-21 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl Bowl)
27 at Miami (9-4; 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl)
11 at Georgia Tech (7-6; 25-17 loss to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl)
18 Virginia (2-10)
1 at Pitt (7-6; 30-27 win over Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Bowl)
8 at Syracuse (7-6; 21-17 win over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl)
15 Virginia Tech (8-5; 42-12 loss to UCLA in the Hyundai Sun Bowl)
20 North Carolina (7-6; 39-17 win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl)
29 Wake Forest (4-8)
The one little hiccup in an otherwise entirely favorable schedule would be hosting the Hokies and then turning around and playing UNC five days later. The Tar Heels have a short week too, though, hosting Pitt on the 15th. Health could be a factor, as the Hokies are a tough draw from a physicality standpoint.
The Thursday night date with UNC will mark the first time in 18 years that Duke is included in the ACCs primetime Thursday rotation. Some schools dont like hosting Thursday nights (forces classes to be cancelled, presents other logistical issues). Duke, though, was more than willing to play host. The Blue Devils played at Georgia Tech on Thursday, Sept. 26, 1996, losing 48-22 on ESPN.
The 2013 combined record of Dukes 12 opponents was 69-82 (.457). Throw out Elon, and the 11 FBS opponents went 67-72 (.482). Ideal, if youre Duke.
The Blue Devils will likely be favored in all four of their non conference games. The two teams they drew from the Atlantic Division are favorable, tooWake Forest and Syracuse (I mean, it could have been FSU, Clemson or Louisville). No Notre Dame this year (or next). The stars are aligning for another Coastal Division run.
From the Chick-fil-A bowl, Duke returns nine of 11 starters on offense and six on defense (though rising sophomores Breon Borders and Bryon Fields took most of the snaps at the corner position Garrett Patterson technically started at last year). Just one starting defensive linemen returns (Jamal Bruce), but the Blue Devils have plenty of returning experience with their reserves.
Speaking of changes, Duke will eventually announce that passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery is the new offensive coordinator. While I cant officially say he will take over the play calling duties, I certainly expect that to be the case (Duke does still need to hire a new quarterback coach).
Montgomery, a 1999 Duke alum, played four years in the NFL and coached the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers from 2010-2012. He rejoined the Duke staff last season.
"It will be a great thing for our team," WR Jamison Crowder said of Montgomery taking over the offense. "He has a lot of experience, both playing football at the next level, the highest level, and coaching on the highest level. Its just going to be a great thing, great experience for the players and the coaches to have his schemes and strategies going into a ballgame. I cant wait."
It should also be noted that Montgomery is in charge of Dukes two most critical geographic recruiting areas: North Carolina and South Florida. While not officially the coach-in-waiting, if all goes according to plan (i.e., the team continues to be successful) and he is still around when Cutcliffe retires, the job would be his to turn down or accept.
"Hes a great person, and hes what you would call a players coach," Crowder said. "He knows how to relate to the wide receivers room and even all the other guys on the team at other positions, on the field and in the video room. I know Coach Mo. His enthusiasm and the energy he brings everyday, even the times where you may not feel like youre ready to go out and practice, hell bring it out of you."
Spring practice will start just a few days after the Feb. 5 signing day.