Duke should win:
Sep. 2nd vs. Richmond – Despite playing a 1-AA team in the home opener, this could be the most important game in the tenure of head coach Ted Roof. Losing this game would be disastrous, both for the rest of the 2006 and the near-term future of Duke Football. This is the one game in which Duke will have a clear talent advantage over their opponent. With a new quarterback and revamped offensive line, not to mention a decent Richmond defense will probably keep Duke's point total down. Still the Devils will have too much on defense for the overmatched Spiders and should be able to control the game.
Duke can win:
Sep. 9th at Wake Forest - Wake is a confounding opponent. On paper, the Deacons have no more talent that Duke, and in some areas have less. What they do have, however, is more experience. They also have completely out-competed Duke in recent contests, especially in the 2003 and 2005 contests. This is one game where Duke's health status will be critically important. If Duke is relatively healthy along the defensive line, Wake will find it much tougher to run the ball than in seasons' past. Since this is the second game of the season, the Wake offense might not be completely in sync. Still, for Duke to win this game they have to score points. The Wake defense has had their number in recent games so Duke must find points from somewhere. The Deacon defensive front will be one of the weaker lines they will face in 2006. It will be a good week two test for the young, inexperienced Duke OL.
Oct. 28th vs. Vanderbilt – The Commodores have had the best of Duke in recent years. That aside, Vandy will have a gaping hole under center after having to replace all-SEC QB Jay Cutler. Since this game is later in the season, the Duke offensive personnel will have had time to get comfortable with each other in game situations, which should result in more points. Unless Vandy can find a very capable replacement fur Cutler, Duke should prevail in this contest.
Nov. 4th vs. Navy – The Midshipmen return 18 starters and are the odds-on favorite to win the commander-in-chief's trophy once again. The ground-oriented attack has been a match-up nightmare for Duke the past two seasons. Despite Navy's recent success, Duke has hung tough and nearly pulled out the win in 2005. This year, the Duke run defense should be strength, and now the Devils boast much more defensive depth than in the past. Navy relies on pinpoint execution, discipline and effort for their success, but are probably the least physically talented D1 team Duke will face this year. If the offense can sustain drives against the undersized Navy defense, the Devils could slow down the running attack enough to pull out the win.
Nov. 25th vs. UNC – The 2005 season-ending loss was a bitter pill to swallow. The Devils fought tooth and nail against the favored Heels, but a late drive allowed UNC to escape with victory. The two teams have lots of similarities. Both will be breaking in new quarterbacks and are very inexperienced along the offensive line. The strength of both teams will be defense. Right now, UNC is the favorite. How each team answers the QB and OL questions during the season will dictate this match-up. And, of course, the rivalry aspect of this game makes gives it an extra bit on unpredictability.
Duke can pull the upset:
Sep. 30th vs. Virginia - The Cavaliers have suffered plenty of attrition this offseason, both in personnel and coaching. Left is a shell of the program that seemed poised to challenge for the conference title just two seasons ago. The Cavaliers still have some players, but there are a lot of question marks along the offensive line as well as the back 8 on defense (they run the 3-4). If they see Duke as an automatic win, and don't come ready to play, the Devils have enough talent to pull the upset.
Nov. 11th at Boston College - The Golden Eagles are a newcomer to the conference, but have already established themselves as a force in the Atlantic Division. This game will be in November in Chestnut Hill, so the key is weather. Duke does not usually play in cold weather games, so this will be a new experience for many of the Devils. Still bad weather is an equalizer as the football can bounce in funny ways. Should the conditions be cold and wet (which they usually are that time of year in New England), the Devils could be pesky enough to surprise the Eagles.
Nov 18th at Georgia Tech – Duke has played Tech well under coach Roof, but the Jackets will be a very tough opponent this fall. A 4-year starting QB with elite athleticism, an all-American WR, and a swarming defense will all be very difficult match-ups for the Devils. John Talley might be able to slow Calvin Johnson down a bit on the outside, but the Duke offense will most likely not have an answer for the Tech defense. The one saving grace for the Blue Devil faithful is that, under Chan Gailey, Tech tends to play to the level of their competition. They will defeat Florida State one week and then lose to a team like Duke the next. This inconsistency could come back and haunt the Jackets should they think Duke is an automatic win.
Duke in all likelihood will not win:
Sep. 16th at Virginia Tech – Tech has absolutely bludgeoned Duke the past two seasons, so why would this not be a miracle win? The fact is Tech will not be quite the same team they've been the past two seasons. Despite his off-field transgressions, Marcus Vick was a game-changer at QB and gave Duke all sorts of problems with is dual-threat ability. Tech also suffered significant personnel losses on both side of the ball. Duke would have to play a near perfect game on offense, defense, and special teams and probably would need a defensive or special teams' score to have a chance.
Oct. 7th at Alabama – Many pundits in SEC land think this will be a down year for the Crimson Tide. Still Alabama will be playing at home in front of their passionate fans. If Duke is not awe-struck by the history and tradition they are playing against, they can cause the Tide a few problems. The last time Duke traveled to a SEC powerhouse, they hung in with Tennessee for 3 ½ quarters before a couple late touchdowns gave the Vols a comfortable winning margin. Most Bama fans see this game as an automatic win, and if the team takes the same attitude, it could be a much closer game than the experts predict.
Duke would need a miracle to win:
Oct 21st vs. Miami – The Canes are just too athletic at the skill positions and along the lines for Duke to have any shot this season. Even if the Devils give a valiant defensive effort, they will not be able to hold Miami under 25 points. And given the state of the Duke offense, it is unreasonable to think Duke has a shot to score that many. The only chance Duke would have is if they are +4 or more in the turnover category AND Duke would have to record at least two special teams or defensive touchdowns. Not impossible, but it would take a miracle.
Oct 14th vs. Florida State – Much like Miami, the Noles are just too athletic on both sides of the ball for Duke to have any realistic chance of winning. It would take a combination similar to the above Miami scenario for Duke to have a prayer. Of course, a monsoon type rain storm could be an equalizer, but a Duke victory would still take a miracle.