Duke Football Predictions

After years of being the bottom feeder of the ACC, the Duke Blue Devils flipped the script in 2013. Duke came out of nowhere to win the ACC Coastal with a 6-3 record inside the conference and would finish the regular season a shocking 10-2. The Blue Devils would go on to get crushed by Florida State in the ACC Championship Game and blow a 21-point lead to Texas A&M in a 48-52 loss to Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to end the year at 10-4.

While it’s no fun ending the season on back-to-back losses, that could be exactly what Duke needed to keep their focus and build off last year’s success. The Blue Devils will be entering the 7th season under head coach David Cutcliffe with a chance to make it to their 3rd straight bowl game, which is remarkable considering they hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1994 when Cutcliffe took the job.

Last Season
ACC (Coastal)
ATS Record
Points For
Points Against
2014 Duke Blue Devils Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
8/30 Elon
9/6 @ Troy
9/13 Kansas
9/20 Tulane
9/27 @ Miami
10/11 @ Georgia Tech
10/18 Virginia
11/1 @ Pittsburgh
11/8 @ Syracuse
11/15 Virginia Tech
11/20 North Carolina
11/29 Wake Forest
Estimated Wins: 7.61

The Blue Devils certainly have enough talent coming back to compete in the wide open Coastal. Duke returns 14 starters from last year, but will have to overcome the losses of quarterback Brandon Connette (transferred), corner Ross Cockrell (4th round pick) and three of four starters on the defensive line. While Connette played a big role in the offense last year, he split time with Anthony Boone and should be able to overcome his departure. The real concern is how Duke will replace the talent lost on the defensive line. The improvements the Blue Devils made on defense last year was what got this team over the hump.

The thing you have to keep in mind is that Cutcliffe and his staff have done a nice job of developing players to fit their system and are starting to climb up the recruiting ranks. While Duke brought in just the 62nd ranked recruiting class of 2014, that’s quite a jump from their 5-year mark of 71st.

One of things that I found surprising with last year’s team is that they actually had a worse turnover ratio (+1) than the previous year (+2). Not what I expected to see given how much better they were. The problem was they turned the ball over way too much. Between Boone and Connette they had 19 interceptions. It’s going to be important that Boone make better decisions in 2014.

One area where Duke may find it difficult to match last year success is on the road. The Blue Devils went a perfect 5-0 away from home in true road games, which included wins at Virginia Tech and at North Carolina. To put it in perspective, Duke had 9 road wins combined from 2004 to 2012.

The Blue Devils did have four wins by 7-points or less, but they also had two close losses and three of their four close wins were on the road. I personally don’t think you should look down on a team for winning a close game on the road. It’s when they are barely scraping by at home where I get concerned.

The most promising sign for Duke building on last year’s success is the schedule is once again in their favor. The Blue Devils catch a huge break by not having to play Florida State, Clemson or Louisville out of the Atlantic. While they have to go on the road to face Miami and Georgia Tech, they get both North Carolina and Virginia Tech at home. The rest of the schedule sets up well. They have two winnable road games at Pittsburgh and Syracuse and two favorable matchups at home against Wake Forest and Virginia. Not to mention they have soft non-conference schedule.

Regular Season Win Total
ACC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
26 to 1
250 to 1
Odds Courtesty of Bovada
Season Predictions

It’s easy to point to last year as a fluke, given how bad Duke has been prior to exploding onto the scene, but you can’t underestimate what a talented head coach like Cutcliffe can do for a program. A lot of people forget that Cutcliffe was the head coach at Ole Miss, where he compiled a 44-29 record before being fired after one losing season. What he’s done reminds me a lot of what James Franklin just did at Vanderbilt. Luckily for the Blue Devils, at 59-years-old, Cutcliffe just might ride it out in Durham.

Considering the fact that I think most people don’t believe Duke is capable of putting back-to-back strong seasons together, I think it says a lot that oddsmakers came out and listed the Blue Devils win total at 8.5 games. As much as that makes me want to go out on a limb and take the over, I’m calling for Duke to finish up at 8-8. Because I have so much respect for Cutcliffe and there’s not a game on the schedule the Blue Devils can’t win, I will not be betting on Duke to finish UNDER their win total of 8.5.

I do think it’s hard for the public to jump on one-year wonder like Duke, at least early on in the season. I could the Blue Devils being a solid team to back against the spread, but there’s clearly not going to be as much value as last year, especially if they open up strong.

2014 Projections
ACC (Coastal)
ACC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction



UNDER 7 Wins – The Devils are coming off a nine-win season but we think a fairly significant drop is in order. Their offense loses QB Boone along with most of their key weapons. They have scored 32 PPG in each of the last three seasons but we expect drop off this season. Duke’s defense allowed just 22 PPG yet teams put up an average of 400 YPG on them so they may have been a bit “lucky” on that side of the ball to hold opponents to low numbers on the scoreboard. They do avoid both Florida State & Clemson with their cross over games but half of their games are on the road this year. We think Duke may get to seven wins this year if things fall into place, but they’ll have a hard time getting over that number.

Tim Nolan

Tim Nolan

OVER 7 Wins – The Duke Blue Devils have won 19 games in the past two seasons. They are coached by David Cutcliffe, who is known as a quarterback mentor. Duke does lose quarterback Anthony Boone but junior Thomas Sirk has plenty of potential to replace him. Both Shaquille Powell and Shawn Wilson return at running back and they combined for close to 1200 yards rushing back in 2014. Receiver Max McCaffrey is back and he had 37 catches for 385 yards. Center Matt Skura has a chance to be all-conference.

On defense, they return their entire secondary. The schedule is not too difficult. The non-conference teams they play are Tulane, Northwestern, North Carolina Central and Army. They could easily win all four of those.

In the ACC, they avoid Clemson, Florida State and Louisville. At home they play Boston College (expected to win just five games by the oddsmakers), Georgia Tech (seven wins), Pittsburgh (six wins) and Miami (only expected to win five games). On the road, they face rival UNC (eight wins), Virginia Tech (eight wins), Virginia (four wins) and Wake Forest (three wins).

I think we see Duke win eight games this year so my suggestion is to play over seven victories in 2015.

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Pittsburgh Virginia Virginia Tech
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