This is a point/counterpoint article with my Rant Sports colleague Justine Hendricks; she thinks that Duke will go to a bowl game this year. Go here to find out why.
The Duke Blue Devils are 3-1 in this young season and are on the verge of becoming relevant in the ACC for the first time in nearly two decades. Duke hasn’t participated in postseason play since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl against Wisconsin and they haven’t been ranked in the top 25 since 1994. The Blue Devils record to this point is impressive if only for the simple reason that it is Duke. So the real question for Duke in 2012 is this; is this the year that Duke finally relinquishes the shackles of program failure to win six games and return to postseason play?
Unfortunately for Duke fans everywhere, I don’t think that it is and that is a shame. The Blue Devils currently have two of the best players in program history in quarterback Sean Renfree and receiver Conner Vernon. Vernon is only six receptions away from becoming the most prolific pass catcher in the history of the ACC.
Head Coach David Cutcliffe could desperately use his top two playmakers for another year, but both are seniors and will likely have a chance to make an NFL roster next year. So 2012 could be the last chance for Duke to go to a bowl in the foreseeable future.
Duke’s three wins to date have come against FIU, North Carolina Central and Memphis. The closest of those three games was a 20 point win over FIU. However, the Blue Devils were blown out by the one truly good team they played so far (Stanford) and they lost that game 50-13.
The Blue Devil’s biggest weapon is their offense, but their biggest liability resides on the other side of the football. Duke’s defense has struggled in 2012. They are currently ranked 78th in scoring defense in the FBS, giving up an average of 37.8 points per game. Their best defense performance came against Memphis last week when they gave up 14 points, but the Tigers are really bad team from Conference-USA. It is hard to believe that Duke’s defense will excel against league competition.
Duke’s final eight games are against ACC opponents. They have to win three of those eight in order to be eligible for postseason play, and to be perfectly honest I just don’t see it. They play (in order) at Wake Forest, vs. Virginia, at Virginia Tech, vs. North Carolina, at Florida State, vs. Clemson, at Georgia Tech and close out the season with a home game against Miami.
I see three winnable games on that schedule for Duke and those are this week against Wake, next week against UVA and the game against UNC. They won’t be favored in any of those games, but they are games where the Blue Devils have a chance (unlike the other five games). Two of those three games are at home, but Duke doesn’t exactly have an established home field advantage.
The good news for the Devils is that all three of these opponents have issues on the defensive side of the ball so they will be able to score, but UNC and Wake have solid to good offenses that will take advantage of Duke’s porous defense.
The best case scenario for Duke is that they win all three of these games and return to postseason play after a 17 year hiatus. However, I think that at best Duke will win two of these games and at worst they could go winless and continue their streak of futility. The one thing that is for sure is that if the Blue Devils do indeed fail to make a bowl in 2012 it could be a long time before they even sniff the postseason again because of the departures of Renfree and Vernon.