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After a 4-0 start, Duke looked to be one of the surprise teams in all of college football and well on its way to contending for another ACC Coastal Division championship. But after dropping two straight, it’s easy to wonder if the program more resembles what many prognosticators predicted it would be in the offseason — a 4-win team for the second year in a row. As with most things, the truth almost certainly lies somewhere in the middle, but Virginia was penciled in as a win in nearly every scenario that had Duke getting back to its eight-, nine- and 10-win seasons from 2013-15. The task doesn’t get any easier for the Blue Devils as Florida State comes to town this weekend. Despite the Seminoles 1-3 record, they’re one of the most talented teams in the country and freshman quarterback James Blackman is starting to find his groove.
PASSING OFFENSE LOST
Daniel Jones was looked at as one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC coming into the season, and after two strong games, has fallen into a sophomore slump. He’s the second-least accurate passer in the conference after six games and threw 10 consecutive incompletions in last week’s loss to Virginia. Jones, offensive coordinator Zac Roper and head coach David Cutcliffe spent a lot of time this week working on fixing a “malfunctioning” passing offense, as Cutcliffe called it after the loss to the Cavaliers. The running offense and defense are the strengths of this Blue Devils’ team and a big reason why they’re off to a 4-2 start. But in order for Duke to become the team they want to be, they’ll need to tighten up the passing game moving forward.
In order for Duke to make a bowl game this year, they may be able to make it with just one more win. Since their Academic Progress Rate is so high, the Blue Devils would be one of the first teams selected if there aren’t enough teams with records of 6-6 or better. But of course, the Duke program has higher standards than that at this point in Cutcliffe’s tenure, despite missing the postseason last year. This weekend, Duke will be 7-point underdogs to Florida State but face some less talented opponents moving forward. Pittsburgh is coming to Wallace Wade Stadium next weekend, and it just lost its starting quarterback for the season. Army looks to be another very winnable game for this Duke team. But road trips to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, as well as a home game against a ranked Georgia Tech team, will provide tough tests for Cutcliffe’s Duke squad.
CRAZINESS 7 DAYS AWAY
Duke’s version of Midnight Madness comes on Oct. 20th, and fans are ecstatic to meet this year’s version of the Blue Devils. That’s in part due to the hype surrounding the team and also due to the fact that most fans know little to nothing about the majority of the players that will be suiting up for Coach K’s 38th team in Durham. With eight freshmen incoming, almost all of the fanbase will be searching their programs next Friday night to find out who the players are.
STAR-STUDDED RECRUITING LIST
Duke will be hosting a number of five-star recruits for Countdown to Craziness, like it does every year. None will be bigger than YouTube sensation Zion Williamson, ranked No. 2 in the senior class. He’ll be in town for an official visit, where Duke can pay for he and his family’s travel as well as entertain the family while they’re on the visit. Williamson is visiting Kentucky this weekend, and is expected to also take trips to hometown schools Clemson and South Carolina in addition to UCLA. He’s already been to Kansas, his perceived leader, on Sept. 30.
Also in town will be Class of 2019’s top-ranked player Vernon Carey, the No. 5 player in 2019 Matthew Hurt, five-star 2019 big man Armando Bacot and five-star 2020 Guard R.J. Hampton. Duke is the perceived leader for Carey and Bacot at this time.
Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.