Despite Duke rowing reaching its first-ever NCAA championship and baseball returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1961, a combination of bad timing, down-trending programs and off-years from the usual heavyweights made 2016 a year to forget.
The Blue Devils’ 4-8 record this year did not surprise me, but I was surprised at how they got there.
When Duke hired Ben Albert as the team’s defensive line coach last February, it was the start of an evolution for the Blue Devil defense.
In its solo act, the younger sibling stole the show and may have even lived up to the hype with its “best opening weekend ever.”
Duke has its hardest schedule in years and lost its best playmakers on offense, defense and special teams, both factors that do not bode well for a fifth straight bowl appearance.
Duke is too talented and too well-coached to win fewer than six games in 2016 and miss a bowl for the first time in five years.
Although some teams may certainly be in favor of making football safer, others like Duke—with an elite kickoff return specialist in defensive back DeVon Edwards—will be penalized if a play that has worked to their advantage in recent years is removed.
ACC officials robbed Duke of a win in last year’s controversial finish against Miami, but some might say the league owed the Blue Devils a few more obstacles than most teams. The reason why? The conference has also gifted head coach David Cutcliffe and company several victories in recent years at the expense of the Hurricanes with its current scheduling format.
With the rule changes, players are provided greater flexibility because they are allowed to wait 10 days after the combine—held this year from May 10 to May 15—to withdraw from the draft pool and return to college as long as they don’t hire an agent.