Highlights of Duke’s tough football schedule. Alabama is just the start.

Duke’s David Cutcliffe on negative recruiting: “I refuse to do that...We don’t go decommit them”

After Duke landed cornerback Tony Davis, who committed to Duke before reopening his recruitment and considering Tennessee and UNC before returning to the Blue Devils, Duke coach David Cutcliffe railed against negative recruiting practices.
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After Duke landed cornerback Tony Davis, who committed to Duke before reopening his recruitment and considering Tennessee and UNC before returning to the Blue Devils, Duke coach David Cutcliffe railed against negative recruiting practices.

In addition to playing two of last season’s College Football Playoff participants in non-conference play, Duke opens the ACC season on a Friday night next season.

The Blue Devils’ 2019 schedule, released by the ACC on Wednesday, shows Duke’s first league game on Sept. 27 at Virginia Tech.

That’s Duke’s only weeknight game, but it marks the sixth consecutive season the Blue Devils have played at least one game on a day other than Saturday.

Times and television networks for most Duke’s games will be announced at a later date. The Duke-Notre Dame game on Nov. 9 will be televised by the new ACC Network, which launches in August.

The Blue Devils went 8-5 overall last season, beating Temple 56-27 in the Independence Bowl. Duke has played in a bowl game in six of the last seven seasons, positing winning records five of the last six years.

With Labor Day falling on Sept. 2 this year, college football teams will get two open dates on their schedules. Duke’s open dates fall on Sept. 21, one week prior to its Friday night game at Virginia Tech, and Nov. 2, between the Blue Devils’ game at North Carolina and prior to their home game with Notre Dame.

The Blue Devils have fueled their recent bowl trips by feasting on non-ACC opponents. Duke has gone 17-3 in the regular season against non-conference foes over the last five seasons. That includes wins over Northwestern, Baylor, Notre Dame and Army, among others.

That will be difficult to maintain this season. Duke opens the season against Alabama at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta on Aug. 31 and plays Notre Dame at Wallace Wade Stadium on Nov. 9.

Best game

Oct. 26, at North Carolina

Duke’s recent dominance in the series, winning five of the last seven years, hastened the end of Larry Fedora’s tenure with the Tar Heels. With Mack Brown coaching UNC again, the Tar Heels will look to reverse that trend. That should make for an exciting game between the rivals.

Brown’s shot at the Blue Devils comes on Oct. 26 at Kenan Stadium, where he’ll look to halt Duke’s three-game winning streak in the series. In his 12th season at Duke, Cutcliffe’s incentive in the game is to send a message that, no matter who UNC’s coach is, the Blue Devils will no longer be an easy pushover for the Tar Heels.

Toughest stretch


The Blue Devils will need to be at their best down the stretch if they are to return to a bowl game.

The final four-game stretch starts on Nov. 9 at home with Notre Dame, followed by an ACC home game with Syracuse on Nov. 16. Duke plays at Wake Forest on Nov. 23 and closes the regular season at home with Miami on Nov. 30.

Notre Dame made the CFP last season, while Syracuse went 10-3. Wake Forest, on its way to a bowl game for the third year in a row, handed Duke an embarrassing 59-7 loss in Durham last November. The Blue Devils beat Miami last season, but that was only Duke’s second win over the Hurricanes in 14 meetings as ACC foes.

One to skip

Sept. 14, at Middle Tennessee

Duke’s first true road game of the season comes in the season’s third week. Normally, an FCS opponent is the game with the least interest. But Duke plays at home on Sept. 7 against N.C. A&T, a MEAC team that beat East Carolina on the way to a 10-2 record last season. So the Aggies are no pushover.

Instead, if you have to ignore a Duke football game this season, the trip to Murphreesboro, Tenn., on Sept. 14 would be the one. The Blue Raiders, from Conference USA, went 8-6 last season. The were whipped 45-13 by Appalachian State in the New Orleans Bowl.

Must win

at Virginia Tech

Though Duke finished 2018 with a bowl game win, the Blue Devils know they missed a shot at challenging for the Coastal Division. The pivot point for that failure came against Virginia Tech in the ACC opener. The Blue Devils were ranked and playing at home on a Saturday night. The Hokies, struggling through a down season that saw them finish 6-7, came to Durham and whipped Duke 31-14.

When the Blue Devils again open the conference part of their schedule against Virginia Tech, this time on Sept. 27 at Lane Stadium, they’ll have an opportunity to flip things.

Aug. 31 – Alabama (At Atlanta)

Sept. 7 – N.C. A&T

Sept. 14 – at Middle Tennessee

Sept. 27 – at Virginia Tech*

Oct. 5 -- Pittsburgh*

Oct. 12 -- Georgia Tech*

Oct. 19 – at Virginia*

Oct. 26 – at North Carolina*

Nov. 9 -- Notre Dame

Nov. 16 – Syracuse*

Nov. 23 – at Wake Forest*

Nov. 30 – Miami*

(*) -- ACC games

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.