Through three games, it’s clear that the Blue Devils are better than expected, but unfortunately for Duke, so are its upcoming opponents.
After embarrassing Middle Tennessee in an impressive road victory, the Blue Devils get a week off to bask in the glory of consecutive wins. When Duke returns to action next Friday, the gauntlet of its schedule truly begins, with a contest at Virginia Tech kicking off ACC play.
“We’re looking forward to stringing together some wins here in the ACC,” Blue Devil quarterback Quentin Harris said. “We have a string of games here coming up after the bye week and we’re looking forward to...really continuing to build on our success that we’ve had early on.”
Last week, I questioned if we really know much about the Blue Devils. Now that I know more about Duke and each of its nine remaining opponents, let’s take a look at the crystal ball for every matchup, and whether my initial prediction of 6-6, including my claim that “the utter inexperience on the offensive side of the ball will prevent Duke from really breaking through,” was too pessimistic.
Sept. 27 at Virginia Tech
After completely collapsing in 2018—Virginia Tech lost five of its last seven games despite reaching No. 12 in the AP poll—the Hokies’ subpar play has continued into this season. Virginia Tech beat FCS Furman by just seven points Saturday in Blacksburg, Va., and I expect Duke to pull off a not-so-surprising upset at Lane Stadium.
Prediction: Duke 27, Virginia Tech 20
Oct. 5 vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh will likely enter this matchup with a sub-.500 record, but that’s more of a product of its opponents, playing No. 21 Virginia, No. 13 Penn State and No. 15 UCF in the first month of the season. While Duke fell apart in its 54-45 loss to the Panthers last fall, I’ll give the edge to the Blue Devils for home-field advantage.
Prediction: Duke 31, Pittsburgh 27
Oct. 12 vs. Georgia Tech
This is the only easy win left on Duke’s schedule. Georgia Tech is simply not a good football team. The Citadel—an FCS team that lost twice to other FCS teams to open the season—beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
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Prediction: Duke 34, Georgia Tech 10
Oct.19 at Virginia
Here’s where the Blue Devil schedule goes from tricky to brutal. Virginia beat Duke in the teams’ prior four matchups, and this is the best Cavalier squad in that time period. I expect Virginia to win comfortably, setting off a span of misery for the Blue Devils.
Prediction: Virginia 35, Duke 14
Oct. 26 at North Carolina
Though not played at the same intensity of the Tobacco Road rivalry in men’s basketball, the North Carolina matchup is circled on the Blue Devils’ calendars.
“We always love the rivalry games,” Harris said. “We’re looking forward to UNC down the line.”
Duke has brought the Victory Bell back to Durham each of the last three seasons, but I expect that to change with a bizarre but talented Mack Brown-led squad. Its former starting quarterback, Chazz Surratt, is now a linebacker, and the Tar Heels are now quarterbacked by a freshman, Sam Howell. However, Surratt and Howell have filled into their new roles admirably.
Prediction: North Carolina 20, Duke 17
Nov. 9 vs. Notre Dame
While Notre Dame is no Alabama or Clemson, the seventh-ranked team in the country will overpower the Blue Devils with ease, similar to what the Crimson Tide did week one.
Prediction: Notre Dame 35, Duke 13
Nov. 16 vs. Syracuse
Coming off what I predict will be a three-game losing streak, this will likely be the game that decides if Duke earns bowl eligibility. The Orange are fresh off a 10-win season but were manhandled by Maryland and Clemson. If Duke’s secondary can take advantage of Syracuse’s turnover-prone quarterback Tommy Devito, the Blue Devils will secure their coveted sixth victory.
Prediction: Duke 20, Syracuse 16
Nov. 23 at Wake Forest
Wake Forest dealt Duke a humiliating 59-7 loss on the Blue Devils’ home turf last November and are the talk of the ACC with a hot start, though Duke cornerback Josh Blackwell is not sold yet.
“Wake Forest has done some pretty productive things, but no [team] has surprised me.”
Demon Deacon wide receiver Sage Surratt is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the ACC, with 372 receiving yards and three touchdowns already. The Blue Devils will keep it closer than last year, but I’m buying into the Wake Forest hype.
Prediction: Wake Forest 38, Duke 30
Nov. 30 vs. Miami
Miami’s 1-2 record is deceiving, as the Hurricanes lost to then-No. 8 Florida and to North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Perhaps I have bad memories of the last time Miami came to Durham, but the Hurricanes and elusive running back Deejay Dallas will run through Duke.
Prediction: Miami 27, Duke 21
Before walking through game by game, I expected to pick a Blue Devil team that I’m high on to win seven or eight games. But with this gauntlet of a schedule, that just does not seem plausible, and securing bowl eligibility with six wins is a more achievable goal for Duke.