The Duke Blue Devils had seemingly gotten over the basketball-only label that has followed the program for, like, ever. It started to change a few years back under David Cutcliffe. Just four seasons ago the Dookies won 10 games for the first time in program history. There was a single-digit decline in the win column over the next two seasons, but eight wins for this program is still something to celebrate. Just when it looked like Duke had climbed the ladder, the team dropped back to its losing ways in 2016. But they did find a quarterback who may be the best in the ACC this fall.
2016 Record: 4-8 SU, 7-5 ATS, 4-8 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 5
National Championship Odds: +30000
Odds To Win ACC: +10000
Coming off three consecutive winning seasons and a program record four straight bowl appearances, the future certainly looked good in Durham. But the Dookies were a fragile group and they took a kick to the sack before the season opened when starting quarterback Thomas Sirk went down for the year with an injury. The player Duke could least afford to lose was lost.
That opened the door for redshirt freshman Daniel Jones and he walked right through it. There were some stumbles along the way against a difficult schedule, but Jones definitely proved he could handle the rigors and the Dookies will be better off in the long run because of it. Jones threw 430 passes for 2,836 yards and 16 touchdowns, but the offense had its struggles.
Those difficult times appeared early in the year in losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern when the group scored a total of 27 points. There were outbursts, like in the 38-35 win over Notre Dame and a loss to Georgia Tech by the same score. Injuries and a lack of depth riddled the defense, which allowed 96 points in road losses to Pitt and Miami to end a difficult season.
Outside of a body bag game with North Carolina Central to open the season, the schedule is just as difficult, if not more so, than last season’s. And that leads us to believe the Dookies might have a tough time getting back to a bowl game. They do play seven of those at home and if the young roster develops as fast as Jones did last season, there could be some upsets, but it looks like Duke might have to wait another season for a complete rebound.
Duke ranked 110th nationally in points per game last season and to have more success it needs to connect on big plays. They didn’t do that last season with only 16 completions of 30 or more yards, despite throwing the ball almost 40 times an outing. There are threats in the receiving corps and Cutcliffe needs to take the shackles off Jones. After all, he’s no longer a freshman.
The offense will need to produce while the defense gets settled. The group of linebackers is solid with Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris, but outside of that, well, we don’t know. The secondary got taken apart with injuries last season and lost nearly everybody. The line also had several starters exit the program. If the D can find answers, the Dookies just might reach the six-win mark. But it’s a stretch.
Week 1: Duke vs. North Carolina Central, Saturday, September 2
Week 2: Duke vs. Northwestern, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Duke vs. Baylor, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: Duke at North Carolina, Saturday, September 23
Week 5: Duke vs. Miami (FL), Friday, September 29
Week 6: Duke at Virginia, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Duke vs. Florida State, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: Duke vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: Duke at Virginia Tech, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: OFF
Week 11: Duke at Army, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: Duke vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: Duke at Wake Forest, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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