Every week, the Blue Zone will make a take on Duke sports—whether that take may be hot, cold or lukewarm. This week's take is in from Evan Kolin:
Duke entered Saturday night’s matchup against Virginia Tech with the goal of its first conference victory en route to a potential birth in the ACC Championship Game.
But instead, the Blue Devils came out of their first real test of the season looking lost and dispirited, with most fans losing any such dreams of a finish atop the conference’s Coastal Division. Duke’s offense couldn’t move the ball consistently, and the Hokies scorched the Blue Devils’ secondary en route to a 31-14 drubbing. But does one bad week mean everyone should just give up on Duke football for the year? Think again.
Yes, Saturday marked Duke’s first real test of the season. And yes, the Blue Devils failed that test. But one failed exam doesn’t guarantee an F at the end of the semester, and the same principle can apply to college football.
Duke only has two matchups against ranked opponents left on its schedule- at No. 17 Miami Nov. 3 and at No. 4 Clemson Nov. 17. Trying to defeat Clemson will be an extremely tough endeavor, but miracles do happen. Syracuse nearly pulled off a major upset against the Tigers just this past weekend. Also, the Hurricanes are yet to prove themselves this season, getting obliterated at home by now-No. 25 LSU before defeating four teams outside the top 25.
Furthermore, the Blue Devils’ biggest weakness against the Hokies- their ineffective pass defense- should be fixed soon with the return of cornerback Michael Carter II. Carter was extremely effective after replacing an injured Mark Gilbert against Northwestern before spraining a ligament the following week at Baylor. The true sophomore didn’t play a down against Virginia Tech but was labeled as Duke’s starter on the team’s depth chart heading into the contest. Especially with the Blue Devils on bye this week, Carter should be back on the field Oct. 13 at Georgia Tech.
In addition, Duke’s offense should be able to find its groove as the season moves along as well. Virginia Tech had the best rush defense the Blue Devils will have to face all year, including Clemson. Redshirt junior Daniel Jones also returned to the field Saturday and looked every part of the elite quarterback he was before he fractured his clavicle. The Charlotte, N.C. native will only gain more comfortability behind center as his surgery becomes a distant memory.
Virginia Tech and Miami are probably the biggest competitors standing in the way between Duke and the Conference Championship. Even if the Blue Devils can pull out a win against Miami, they would likely have to rely on both the Hurricanes and Hokies losing two other ACC matchups. However, both teams only have a lone ranked conference opponent remaining on their schedule, with that matchup being against themselves Nov. 17, so a little bit of luck would need to come into play for Duke to up on top.
Is all of this likely? All signs point to no. But giving up on the Blue Devils after one measly loss isn’t the appropriate course of action, either. If Duke can stay composed against its unranked opponents and manage the upset over one of Miami or Clemson, a 6-2 conference slate is achievable, the same record it had when it won the ACC Coastal five years ago. Now is not the time to forget about football and move onto basketball season. Because as RJ, Zion and co. prepare for a trivial regular season matchup with Stetson December 1, Daniel Jones and the Blue Devil football squad might just be playing for the ACC crown.
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