Fearless Predictions- 2003 Duke Football

Heading into the 2003 season the Blue Devils appear poised to have a break out year after four straight off ones. With a solid core of returning starters and an overall sense of confidence surrounding the team, TDD asked a trio of football gurus to offer their predictions for the upcoming season.

David Dohrmann

Prediction: 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the ACC.

Duke will break its conference losing streak by winning three games this year. Other than Florida State and Maryland, I believe they have a realistic shot at defeating the rest of the teams in the ACC.

Duke will have problems on offense against teams with quality front lines, like FSU and UM. Those teams will be able to slow the Duke running game down with less people in the box than the rest. There aren't any other ACC opponents that impress me on the defensive front.

Duke will beat a team they probably shouldn't in the conference, such as NC State or Virginia. They will also drop a relatively winnable game. The most likely culprits here are North Carolina, Northwestern, or Clemson. All have spread offense schemes and athletic QBs. Those teams have given Duke fits in the past.

Superlatives:

Biggest upset victim: NC State - They are going to have all kinds of problems on the defensive line.

Most disappointing loss: Clemson - those receivers will give the Blue Devils fits again.

Most improved player: Wide Receiver Reggie Love - He has been unguardable in practice. He will catch seven or eight touchdown passes this year, most on jump balls.

Best pro prospect: LT Drew Strojny - He will be Duke's highest NFL draft pick since Mike Junkin.

Fearless predictions:

-Duke will lead the ACC in rush defense again this year. They will also not finish last against the pass like they did in 2002.

- Chris Douglas will become the all-time leader in total purpose yards. Unfortunately, injuries have really hampered his rushing totals the past two years. Otherwise he would be knocking on the door of some Duke rushing records as well.

- Knowledgeable fans of the ACC will know the names Philip Alexander and Brendan Dewan by the end of the year. Both of these guys can flat out play.




Adam Stewart

Prediction: 6-6 overall, 3-5 in the ACC.

This is a critical season for Duke football. After four seasons of struggling under Carl Franks, this appears to be the year that fans can get excited again and see some victories in Wallace Wade Stadium. Learning how to win, and gaining the confidence that comes with those wins, will be the keys to a successful season.

Many fans are pointing to either a bowl game or bowl eligibility as their marks for success this season. With the number of starters coming back, that should be obtainable. However, in a dangerous ACC, that could be more difficult than first suspected. But in today's world of college football, no one is falling back, only moving forward, and so the Blue Devils must begin to beat their peers consistently on the field.

While no team can be overlooked, especially with Duke's recent struggles, there are several games that Duke must win this year. Having Western Carolina, Rice, and Northwestern at home should equate to wins based on the experience alone that the Blue Devils possess.

The games against NC State, Florida State, Maryland and Tennessee will prove to be difficult, unless the Devils' offense can learn to put points on the board. Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia all present opportunities for wins, but the Blue Devils have to close in those games to seal the deal--something that never happened in 2002.

The 13-game losing streak to the Tar Heels is something that should now be a large concern, and one that could come to a close this year. Games against Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, both in Durham, should be looked at as must-wins for this year's Duke squad. Both of those schools have suffered major losses. With as much as Duke has back, Duke fans have to be asking: "If not now, when?" The answer may well be that if not now, it will be with a new head coach next year.

Superlatives:

Biggest upset victim: Clemson - this game could be the nail in the proverbial coffin for Tommy Bowden. Duke had Clemson last season, and after several rough games, the Tigers could easily be below full strength.

Most disappointing loss: NC State - Somehow, some way NCSU will take one again. Afterwards, Wolfpack faithful will still not give Duke any respect.

Most improved player: Running back Chris Douglas - It sounds odd, but last year he did not receive as much hype as his cohort, Alex Wade. Look for Douglas to have a standout senior season with a great chance to break into the All-Conference category.

Fearless predictions:

-Duke will be 3-1 in non-conference play. Wins will come in the ACC against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and one of the following: North Carolina, Virginia or Clemson.

- It will take at least 5 wins for Carl Franks to keep his job. He should be able to do it this season. The North Carolina game might well be a critical game on this issue, as he currently stands 0-4 to the bitter rival school.

- Duke will finish above Wake Forest and Georgia Tech in the ACC. The Devils have a great chance to equal Clemson and North Carolina as well.


Miller Safrit
TheInsiders.com Recruiting Expert

Prediction: 5-7, 3-5 in the ACC.

The team has plenty of talent returning, but the talent-level is still not there. Recruits are starting to see this, and the coaching staff is really picking up its talent-level incoming to the university.

That said, the Devils are still another solid year of recruiting away from standing out in the minds of observers. What they know is the past and the lack of success on-the-field, but the massive amount of returning talent combined with a weaker in-conference talent level gives rise to Duke standing a good chance of finishing with five or six wins easily. It will come down to the turnover margin and how well the offense can score. Defense is the key to the team, and they must keep them in games this year.

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