Opponent: Duke Blue Devils
Time: November 29th, TBD
Location: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe (75-73)
The Duke Blue Devils had one of their best seasons in school history in 2013. The Blue Devils finished 10-4, and made it to the ACC Championship game. At halftime of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against Texas A&M they held a 38-17 lead, but Johnny Manziel put on a spectacular performance and helped the Aggies outscore Duke 35-10 in the second half to win the game 52-48. Was last year a fluke season for Duke or are they in position to make another bowl game this season? Let's take a look at the offense.
The 2014 offense will be led by quarterback Anthony Boone, who completed 206 of his 322 passing attempts for 2,260 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2013. The 2013 team also featured situational/goal line quarterback Brandon Connette, but he transferred to Fresno State to be closer to his mother, who is battling cancer. In addition to having 13 passing touchdowns to just 6 interceptions, Connette averaged nearly 4 yards per carry and had 14 rushing touchdowns.
Tailback was a position in which Duke relied upon its depth last season. This season, however, they will need several players to expand their roles. The Blue Devils will be without last year's leader in carries, Jela Duncan, due to an academic suspension. They will also be without Brandon Connette's 94 carries and Juwan Thompson's 64. Josh Snead averaged more than 6 yards/carry on 107 carries last season and will probably asked to do more this year. Shaquille Powell, former 4-star recruit, averaged 5.5 yards/carry last season and is another player who will have to increase his workload. In general, Duke should be fine at tailback, but lack of depth could be a problem if injuries occur.
At receiver, Duke is led by star Jamison Crowder, who caught more than 100 balls last season for 1,360 yards and even earned a vote for Preseason ACC Player of the Year. Yes, someone actually voted for him over the defending Heisman Trophy winner. Unfortunately for Duke, they recently lost star tight end Braxton Deaver for the season due to a torn ACL. Deaver finished his 2013 campaign with 46 receptions and 600 receiving yards. The Blue Devils now must look to either junior Max McCaffrey or senior Isaac Blakeney to step up in 2014 and try and come close to replacing Deaver.
Duke had an excellent offensive line last season, and that can greatly be attributed to their experience. They lose Perry Simmons and Dave Harding, who finished their careers with 91 combined starts, due to graduation, but still return three starters who have 83 combined starts. They return right guard Laken Tomlinson, who has 39 career starts and was named 2nd team All-ACC last season. Duke's offensive line should still be solid, but replacing 91 career starts is never easy.
Overall, I would expect the Blue Devils to decline from their 2013 campaign in which they finished 39th in Football Outsiders' S&P offensive ranking.
The Blue Devils are led by David Cutcliffe, who has a 75-73 head coaching record overall and is 31-44 in his six seasons at Duke. They do, however, have a record of 16-11 over the past two seasons. Cutcliffe is probably most known for being a quarterbacks guru, and that includes being the college coach of both Peyton Manning and Eli Manning. Cutcliffe was the quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator during Peyton's time at Tennessee and was the head coach during Eli Manning's tenure at Ole Miss. In total, he has coached six quarterbacks who have gone on to play in the NFL in some capacity.
Check back tomorrow for a preview of Duke's defense and special teams, as well as a prediction for Wake's final regular season game of the year.