It’s been a good run for David Cutcliffe at Duke, and what he’s done over the past eight years has been nothing short of miraculous. It was going to be impossible to carry that momentum forward forever, and this looks like the season where the Blue Devils take a step backward.
Not permanently, to be sure, but there’s enough stacked up against Duke this fall that the Blue Devils could play well and still see their run of annual bowl appearances end, even if only for a year.
The biggest obstacle is the most obvious: The schedule. The Blue Devils have to go to Northwestern and Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks, have Louisville (away) as an Atlantic Division crossover and have to go to Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Miami – the latter two in the final two weeks of the season, which could be a tough nut to crack if the Blue Devils need a sixth win for bowl eligibility.
Throw in the loss of quarterback Thomas Sirk due to a partial tear of his left Achilles and the loss of a truly game-changing player on defense in Jeremy Cash and the Blue Devils have a little more work to do to tidy things up than they usually do at this time of year. (On the other hand, there were also nagging questions about play-calling under Scottie Montgomery, now the head coach at East Carolina.)
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If the Blue Devils manage to overcome all that and keep the bowl streak alive, it will be a yet another tribute to what Cutcliffe has accomplished at Duke. If they can’t, it shouldn’t be taken as retrenchment, only a measure of the obstacles Duke faced this season.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock