Looking At The Schedule

Now that the positions have been reviewed, let us take a look ahead to the slate of games the Devils will play this fall. Unfortunately, the schedule makers did not do Duke any favors. Most analysts believe it is one of the nations' toughest schedules. Not only does Duke only play five home games, they play four straight road games during September.

Not to mention, there are eight teams on the schedule that appeared in bowl games last season. For a team that went 0-12 last season, the Devils appear to have quite a challenge ahead of them.

Must Win:

September 1st – Connecticut: This is the most important game in Ted Roof's head coaching career. The Devils open the season riding a 20-game losing streak, but will be hosting a team which finished 4-8 last season and are picked to finish near the bottom of the Big East in 2007. This will be the 3rd straight season that Duke has had a very winnable opening game. The last two seasons, however, have seen the Devils fall flat on their faces in these contests. If the Devils can somehow pull out a victory, it will give them much needed confidence heading in to the early four game road stretch. On the other hand if they stumble out of the gate again, they will have a tough time rebounding and could be starting another long season in the face. Connecticut has a good RB in Donald Brown but is not an offensive powerhouse. If Duke is to show the world they are moving in the right direction, this is a game they should win.

Winnable:

September 15th – at Northwestern: The Wildcat football program is still reeling after the 2006 death of former head coach Randy Walker. Former All-American linebacker Pat Fitzgerald took hold of the reins after Walker's passing and had to guide a relatively young team thought a difficult season. Despite being an upperclassmen laden team with a good running game, Duke matches up well with Northwestern from a talent standpoint. The Wildcats lack playmakers on defense and Duke should be able to score plenty of points. If Duke can slow down the Northwestern offense, they can pull out the win.

September 22nd – at Navy: Anytime you play Navy, you know exactly what to expect. The multi-vectored Middie option attack gains yards on any defense. Duke was able to stay close in 2006, but did not make any defensive adjustments to counter the ground game. This game is dependent on the Duke offense scoring enough points to win. Navy plays hard, but does not have a lot of talent on defense. Duke has to execute their offense and get a lead to force the Middies to play from behind. If Navy is forced to throw the ball more than they are comfortable, Duke should be able to pull this game out.

October 6th – Wake Forest: What a difference one blocked kick can make. For Wake Forest, the last-second block of Duke's potential game winning field goal was the early season springboard to an ACC title. For Duke, it was a demoralizing defeat against a dominated opponent. The Devils put themselves in that situation by not capitalizing on early scoring opportunities. A 13-0 halftime lead could have easily been 31-0, but red-zone turnovers and missed field goals cost the Devils points. Wake returns most of their team from the 2006 season, but the losses suffered were significant. The Deacs have to replace the entire middle of their defense and a few important members of the offense. From a talent perspective, this is a relatively even match-up. The difference has been the effort. Wake has owned Duke in Wallace Wade over the last 3 meetings, putting up 40+ plus points on each of the last two occasions. Duke must put those past games out of their minds and give the effort they did a season ago.

November 24th – at UNC: Despite the buzz surrounding the hiring for former Miami coach Botch Davis, this is not going to be a very good Tarheel team. They will be painfully young at key positions on both sides of the ball. They have lots of young talent, thanks to Davis's recruiting touch, but the players are going to need a year or two of seasoning before they are ready to excel at the college level. Duke should have an advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball, which could pave the way for a big offensive day. If Duke can keep UNC's receivers and special teams return men in check, they can definitely bring home the Victory Bell.

It Could Happen

September 8th – at Virginia: If Duke wins in convincing fashion in week one, this game could be very interesting. Virginia has a bevy of solid ACC players, but no true superstars that can scare you. The 37-0 Cavalier shutout last season should be taken with a grain of salt. Duke has just come off a loss to Virginia Tech in which QB Thad Lewis had been injured. He was definitely not 100% for last year's contest and had probably the poorest performance of his rookie campaign. UVA also did not do all that much on offense: despite scoring 37 points, they only had 253 yards of offense. UVA's scoring drives were 27, 15, 1, 8, and 46 yards. Every drive started in their own territory resulted in a punt or turnover. If Thad Lewis shakes off the horrors of last year's performance, and Duke does not gift wrap points like they did in the 2006 game, Duke will compete in this game. Virginia will be coming off a season-opener at Wyoming and will probably be looking ahead to their game the following week against UNC.

November 3rd – Clemson: This game will depend on the success or disappointment of the Clemson season to that date. If the Tigers come in on a roll, the Devils will be hard-pressed to make a game of it. If the Tigers are struggling, however, and people are calling for Tommy Bowden's head, the Devils could pull the upset. Clemson has a habit of not playing well at Wallace Wade. In fact, Duke's last conference victory came the last time the Tigers visited Durham. Clemson has superior talent, but also has a very uncertain QB situation and might not be the offensive juggernaut of seasons past.

November 10th – Georgia Tech: Now that the Calvin Johnson show is gone, Duke might be able to slow down the Tech offense. They still have Tashard Choice as the featured running back, and with Reggie Ball gone will most assuredly be better at QB. Still, without Johnson at wideout Duke will be able to better balance their defense against Tech. If the offensive line can handle the various blitz packages they will see from jacket DC Jon Tenuta, they will be able to score some points.

November 17th – at Notre Dame: Duke having a chance in South Bend? You may think me crazy, but consider the situation. Duke will be viewed as schedule fodder to rest the starters and give the second string time to play. The Domers will have a good, not great, team with a big question mark at quarterback. Duke has a habit of giving big-name non-conference opponents heartburn when they come to town. In their last two marquee non-conference games, the Devils have pushed both Tennessee and Alabama to the limit before faltering in the 4th quarter. If Duke can stay in the game and not make mistakes down the stretch, this game could be very interesting

Outlook Isn't Pretty

September 29th – at Miami: A season ago, Duke was one play away from pulling off an improbable upset in Wallace Wade. This thought will be fresh in the minds of the Hurricane players. Expect them to play this game with a little more edge than normal and try to put the Devils out early. Miami has a significant talent advantage at most positions on the field and if they play well will win the game handily. The only chance Duke has is if the Canes continue to struggle on offense as they have since the beginning of 2006.

October 20th – Virginia Tech: Duke has not scored a point on the Hokies the last two seasons. I do not expect this trend to continue, despite VT once again having one of the nation's best defenses. The Hokies have dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to an absurd degree in the previous contest. Duke must do a better job in the trenches to keep the score respectable. The legendary VT special teams acumen makes that phase of the game a complete mismatch as well. Despite the good season I expect out of Thad Lewis, Duke will not score enough points to win this game.

October 27th – at Florida State: This game will mirror the Miami game to some degree. The Noles have QB issues they need to resolve and can struggle to score points at times. Unfortunately they do have great talent at wide receiver and last season just "out-athleted" Duke on the perimeter. The Devils will have better overall athleticism on defense, especially in the secondary, but the young players back there will not be able to match-up with FSU. Duke has been able to score points on FSU in recent years, so I expect their defensive coaches to emphasize this game to make sure they do not let down against Duke.


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