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Wake Forest Football Preview: Duke Blue Devils

The Deacs see a familiar face for the final game of the season

NCAA Football: Duke at Wake Forest James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs are on the road to close out the regular season against their annual Coastal Division opponent, the Duke Blue Devils. Wake has dominated in the last 3 games of this series, beating the Blue Devils by an average score of 48-14. Duke hired former Wake Forest Defensive Coordinator Mike Elko in the offseason after David Cutcliffe resigned as the Head Coach, so there may be some bragging rights on the line between Elko and Clawson, who have been very good friends for almost 20 years. Clawson and Elko worked together from their Fordham days all the way to their time at Wake Forest, so they probably have a pretty good understanding one another’s strategy when it comes to football.


  • Opponent: Duke
  • Date: Saturday, November 26th, 2022
  • Location: Wallace Wade Stadium | Durham, NC
  • Vegas Insider Total Wins: 3
  • 2021 Record: 3-9 (0-8)
  • Previous Matchup: Wake 45—Duke 7 (2021)
  • All time vs Wake Forest: 58-41-2

Duke was, frankly, really bad last season. The Blue Devils didn’t win a single game in the conference and only managed to beat NC A&T, 3-9 Northwestern, and 2-10 Kansas. Their offense moved the ball well enough, but they were one of the worst team in the country in converting drives into points, scoring under 23 points per game. Their defense was absolutely atrocious—the Blue Devils allowed the 4th most points in all of FBS at nearly 40 per game and were the worst total defense in the nation, allowing 518.4 yards per game. In ACC play, the Duke defense gave up 45 or more points in 6 of their 8 games. It’s not exactly hard to see why they went 0-8 in the conference.

This will most likely be a rebuilding season for the Blue Devils. David Cutcliffe stepped down at the end of last season (hopefully that means fewer fake injuries this year), and Duke hired Mike Elko, who brough in a whole new staff. That means it’s hard to know right now exactly what Duke’s identity is going to be under Elko. I’m just going to assume based off his history that it is going to revolve around playing very good defense. On top of replacing the whole coaching staff, starting QB Gunnar Holmberg transferred to FIU and running back Mateo Durant, who was really the only threat on the offense with over 1,200 rushing yards last season, headed to the NFL. As with most coaching changes, it is going to take a couple of years for Elko to recruit the types of players he wants, so I am not expecting Duke to turn things around this season. The Blue Devils are basically starting from scratch with new faces all over the place.


I think we all remember how Clawson’s first couple of seasons as the head coach at Wake Forest went. Duke and Wake Forest are pretty similar schools in that they are smaller private schools that aren’t teeming with 4- and 5-star talent every season. Because of that, I fully expect that Duke’s first couple of years under Elko will experience similar growing pains to Wake in 2014 and 2015. Things will likely get worse before they get better. I feel pretty confident that Wake will win this one handily to finish the season off with a win.