Since the rebirth of Duke football in 2012, the Blue Devils have played schedules favorable for racking up wins.
Next year will be more difficult. Here are a few reasons why:
Dating back to the 2012 season, which marked the end of Duke’s 17-year bowl drought, the Blue Devils have typically beaten bad and mediocre teams and lost to good teams. Duke is 22-3 against teams that finish with a losing record and just 7-17 against those with a winning record.
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There are many good teams on Duke’s football schedule next year. Seven of Duke’s 11 FBS opponents finished with winning records last year. An eighth, Georgia Tech, had an uncharacteristic down year and will likely play much better than last year’s 3-9 squad.
Mark your calendars
Nov. 10 vs. UNC: It’s a Thursday night special against the Tar Heels. After securing bowl eligibility with a dramatic 33-30 win against UNC in 2012 and clinching the Coastal Division with a 27-25 win at Chapel Hill in 2013, Duke has been blown out by the Tar Heels in the past two years. That included a 45-20 Thursday night debacle in 2014.
Sept. 24 at Notre Dame: Thanks to the ACC’s arrangement with kind-of, sort-of member school Notre Dame, Duke will play in South Bend two times before 2025. The first time is this year; the second is in 2020. The last time Duke went to South Bend was in 2007, an utterly forgettable year for both programs. Charlie Weis’ 1-9 team beat Ted Roof’s 1-9 team 28-7 in Roof’s final season coaching the Blue Devils.
Nov. 26 at Miami: The ACC changed up its normal rivalry week schedule and is sending the Blue Devils to Miami instead. Of course, last season’s game against the Hurricanes featured one of the wildest – and most controversial – endings in the history of college football. Eight laterals and four officiating mistakes on the final play of the game let the Hurricanes kickoff return touchdown stand for the 30-27 win.
Seasons are made or broken in November, as David Cutcliffe likes to say, and that will certainly hold true for Duke next year. The Blue Devils host Virginia Tech and then have a five-day turnaround with North Carolina on Thursday night before traveling to Pittsburgh and Miami to close out the season. Combined record of those four teams last year: 34-19 (.642).
What to like
If watching Duke beat up on inferior competition was getting boring, the good news is that there will be less of that next year. Essentially, the Blue Devils trade Tulane (3-9) and Boston College (3-9) for Notre Dame (10-3) and Louisville (8-5).
What to dislike
If watching Duke pile up wins against middling teams to finish with a high number of wins was priority No. 1, then this schedule will disappoint. Assuming Duke beats FCS N.C. Central, Wake Forest (3-9) and Army (2-10), the Blue Devils will still need three more wins against quality foes to become bowl eligible. And grouping Georgia Tech (3-9) into that “should win” category seems unwise.
From a competitive standpoint, this is a great schedule to test a program that should be beyond the novelty status of, “Hey, Duke isn’t terrible anymore!” Matching last year’s win total with eight wins this year would be a significantly more impressive accomplishment.
3 N.C. Central
10 Wake Forest
17 at Northwestern
24 at Notre Dame
14 at Louisville
29 at Georgia Tech
5 Virginia Tech
10 North Carolina
19 at Pittsburgh
26 at Miami