You have to be impressed with what head coach David Cutcliffe has been able to accomplish at Duke.  He’s taken a program that wasn’t respected at all to a legit threat in the ACC.

Last year the Blue Devils finished 8-5, giving them a 27-13 record over the last 3 seasons. During this stretch they have gone 15-9 in ACC play, including a spot in the title game back in 2013.

As long as Cutcliffe sticks around in Durham, Duke will be a difficult out for any ACC team. He’s without question one of the most underrated head coaches in the country.

Will the Blue Devils be a contender in the Coastal in 2016? On paper it doesn’t look like it, but this team has a way of exceeding expectations.

Last Season
ACC (Coastal)
ATS Record
Points For
Points Against
4-4 (T-4th)
2016 Schedule
DateOpponentSpread (Est.)Win Chance
9/3NC Central
9/10Wake Forest
9/17@ Northwestern
9/24@ Notre Dame
10/14@ Louisville
10/29@ Georgia Tech
11/5Virginia Tech
11/10North Carolina
11/19@ Pittsburgh
11/26@ Miami (FL)
Estimated Wins: TBD

The schedule certainly appears to be a lot more difficult than it was in 2015. They essentially trade out a non-conference road game at Tulane with a road game at Notre Dame. They also have to travel to Northwestern after playing them at home in 2015.

Last year the Blue Devils benefited from not having to play Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and NC State out of the Atlantic. While they avoid 3 of the 4 again, they have to travel to Louisville.

My biggest concern is the road slate. Duke has 6 away games and not one of them will be easy. Inside ACC play, they have to go to Louisville, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Miami.

They also have two difficult home games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Both of which are expected to compete for the Coastal title.

Roster Breakdown

One of the reasons Duke was able to win 8 games last year is the play of junior quarterback Thomas Sirk. He stepped into the starting role and completed 58.8% of his passes with 16 TD’s to just 8 INT’s. He also led the team in rushing with 803 yards and 8 touchdowns.

There were major concerns if Sirk would be back for his senior year in 2016. He tore his Achilles in February and his return was questionable. The good news is he’s on the right track is expected to be in the lineup for the opener.

While Duke didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher, they averaged a respectable 193.0 ypg. They will have to replace their top back in Shaquille Powell, but have plenty of options to fill the void.

The Blue Devils also lose their top receiver in Max McCaffrey, but the unit as a whole could be improved. They get back TJ Rahming and Anthony Nash. Replacing McCaffrey will be highly touted freshman Scott Bracey, who they are excited about. They also add in Tennessee transfer Daniel Helm at tight end.

The offensive line loses two key players in center Matt Skura and left guard Lucas Patrick. However, they do have 3 starters coming back, including both starting tackles.

It might not look all that impressive on paper, but Duke has averaged 30+ ppg each of the last 4 years. As long as Sirk is good to go and can stay healthy, that streak should continue.

Defensively it’s hard telling what to expect from the Blue Devils. Last year the defense completely fell apart in the 2nd half. After giving up 9.3 ppg in their first 6, they allowed 39.1 ppg and 516 ypg in their last 7.

They welcome back 6 starters on this side of the ball, plus return a lot of the reserves who contributed last year. The concern is how they replace linebacker Dwayne Norman and All-American safety Jeremy Cash. These two were 1-2 in tackles, combining for 215, including 23 tackles for loss.

The other concern is the fact that they have just one starter back along the defensive line. They are counting on sophomores Edgar Cerenord and Marquise Price to step in and play at a high level.

Not only do they lose Norman at linebacker, but fellow starter DeVon Edwards is moving to corner. That leaves sophomore Tinashe Bere as the only returning starter in the middle of the field.

The good news is the secondary figures to be solid. With Edwards moving two corner, they have four returning starters in the defensive backfield. You just have to wonder if they will be good enough against the run to even force teams to throw the ball.

I typically don’t talk about special teams that much, but it’s worth noting here. Duke loses both their kicker and punter, who both were 4x time All-ACC players.

Regular Season Win Total
ACC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesty of Bovada
Season Predictions

Oddsmakers are certainly expecting Duke to regress even more in 2016. They have their win total at just 6, which is mark they have hit each of the last 4 years. Their +4700 odds to win the ACC are ahead of only BC, Virginia, Wake Forest and Syracuse.

As much respect as I have for Cutcliffe, I believe Duke falls short of that 6-win mark in 2016. The biggest reason being the schedule. It’s not out of the question they lose all 6 of their road games. If that were the case, they would have to win all 6 at home. It’s doable, but they have lost at least 2 at home each of the last 4 years.

With that said, I don’t think it will be a complete free fall for the Blue Devils. I have them going 3-5 in the ACC and 5-7 overall. That means they are just a couple upsets away from matching last year’s 7-5 finish in the regular season.

2016 Projections
ACC (Coastal)
ACC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
More College Football Predictions