Game-By-Game Predictions for Duke's 2014 Season
The team that had five zero- or one-win seasons during the 2000s has quietly evolved into an ACC powerhouse. The New York Times even wrote a story last November called "At Duke, Football is the New Basketball."
In 2013, Duke had a second consecutive bowl season for the first time ever, and the Blue Devils won 10 games for the first time in the history of their football program.
Sure, this is partially because Duke plays more games in their regular season than it used to. The Blue Devils didn't start playing a 12-game regular season until 2006. Still, 2013 saw Duke in its first-ever ACC Championship Game, and a Chick-fil-A Bowl bid after receiving a Belk Bowl bid in 2012. Can Duke repeat as ACC Coastal Division champs and get an unprecedented third straight bowl bid?
Star receiver and always-threatening punt returner Jamison Crowder returns (pun intended) for his senior season, as does junior quarterback Anthony Boone and nine of the 11 starters on offense. Let's look at the Duke 2014 schedule and assess whether Duke is ACC contender material again this season.
Aug. 30, vs Elon - Elon is what Duke used to be — a football program most people do not realize even exists. There are perhaps 6,000 students at tiny Elon University, also located in North Carolina. It is a coming of age for the Duke football program that it now have cupcake games on its early schedule, instead of serving as a cupcake game. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 6, at Troy - Do you need a map again? Troy University is in Troy, Alabama and fields a vastly better football team than Elon University. The Trojans are a half-decent Sun Belt Conference team, and gave Duke a nice contest last year. But a half-decent Sun Belt Conference team is not going to defeat Duke this season. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 13, vs. Kansas - Well, well, well, it's our good friend Charlie Weis and the Kansas football Jayhawks. They're still in rebuilding mode, and are still struggling to become a .500-caliber team. Kansas hasn't won an away football game since 2009, and won't on this day. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 20, vs Tulane - Fun fact: The Tulane Green Wave have a legally blind player! He's a freshman long-snapper, and he's good at it. But he does not play where Tulane most needs help: on offense. Tulane cannot keep up with one of the top offenses in the ACC. (Prediction: Win)
Sept. 27, at Miami (Fla.) - Now comes the hard part. Duke begins it ACC schedule in Miami, where Duke Johnson could run all over Duke's defense. That will be the difference in a likely offensive shootout. (Prediction: Loss)
Oct. 11, at Georgia Tech - This is not the same Georgia Tech team that demolished Duke last year. It has lost quarterback Vad Lee and a lot of offense, and Jamison Crowder could have another of his patented multiple touchdown days. (Prediction: Win)
Oct. 18, vs Virginia - The Virginia Cavaliers are the dregs of the ACC in the same sense Duke was 10 years ago. Duke benefits again from the softness of its 2014 schedule. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 1, at Pittsburgh - Last year's Pitt-Duke game was a classic, with the Devils rallying late to win 58-55. Pitt has a terrific quarterback in Tom Savage last season, an asset they do not have this year. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 6, at Syracuse - Duke lucked out in not drawing Florida State, Clemson or Louisville as its ACC Atlantic opponents this season. Syracuse was an inconsistent team last season, and doesn't have enough building blocks to beat the Blue Devils in their final road game. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 15, vs Virginia Tech - After years of being throttled by Virginia Tech, the Dukies have a role reversal with the Hokies. Tech's defense lost far too many graduates to hamper Duke's passing game, and its offense lacks a certifiable star. (Prediction: Win)
Nov. 20, vs. North Carolina - Duke-UNC is on ESPN on a Thursday night, and it's not a basketball game! A win here would be a great attention-getter for a coming-of-age Duke program, but it will have just played five days before. ESPN will get what it wants in a solid Duke-UNC rivalry game, but Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams will use the chance to prove he's something special. (Prediction: Loss)
Nov. 29, vs Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons are awful, but new coach Dave Clawson will make sure they don't stay that way. Still, the Blue Devils are playing for pride and a bowl game, and will avoid a letdown against a much lower-octane team. (Prediction: Win)
In a tougher ACC Coastal Division, even an improved Duke team likely won't win the chance to get taken apart by Florida State in the conference title game. But do expect Duke to win a third consecutive bowl game invitation, and perhaps even finish the year among the Top 20 for the first time since the 1960s.
2014 Duke Projected Record: 10-2 (6-2)