Duke reached the halfway point of its regular-season schedule with a 28-21 loss at Virginia last Saturday.
Still, the Blue Devils (4-2, 1-2 ACC) are in shape to return to a bowl game after missing out on the postseason in 2016.
A month ago, after Duke opened its season with a win over N.C. Central, the Blue Devils’ schedule began looking more favorable to allow them to reach their fifth bowl game in six seasons.
Since then, Duke posted wins over Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina before losing to Miami and Virginia.
Those three wins were far from certain when the season started. Northwestern (2-3), Baylor (0-5) and UNC (1-5) are now a combined 3-13, so those are wins the Blue Devils should have secured.
Duke’s losses came against two teams – Miami (4-0) and Virginia (4-1) – with a combined record of 8-1.
Here’s a look at the second half of Duke’s schedule, including what those upcoming opponents teams have done so far, how possible a Duke win looked back in September and how it looks now.
Oct. 14 Florida State
Record: 1-3, 1-2 ACC
So far: Florida State started the season a national title contender but things went awry in a season-opening 24-7 loss to Alabama. In that game, the Seminoles lost sophomore starting quarterback Deondre Francois (3,350 passing yards, 196 rushing yards in 2016) to a season-ending knee injury. James Blackman took over, and the results have been, well, just OK. The freshman this season has 602 passing yards and -35 rushing yards. Florida State still has plenty of talent, particularly on defense, which should smother Duke’s struggling offense.
September Duke success meter: Yeah? Maybe? No. It’s still no.
Current Duke success meter: Still can’t see it.
Oct. 21 Pittsburgh
Record: 2-4, 0-2 ACC
So far: Doesn’t Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi have a defensive background? Hard to tell as the Panthers have allowed 30.8 points per game this season. Only UNC (33.8) is worse among ACC teams. Yes, Pitt has so far played a tough schedule, losing to Penn State 33-14 and Oklahoma State 59-21 in nonconference games. Pitt’s only wins have been against Youngstown State (28-21 in overtime) and Rice (42-10).
September Duke success meter: Toss up with a lean toward Pitt.
Current Duke success meter: Reverse that. Duke should get this one.
Oct. 28 at Virginia Tech
Record: 5-1, 1-1 ACC
So far: The Hokies are looking so good at the halfway point. Coming off 10 wins in Justin Fuente’s first season in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech’s only blemish so far this season is to No. 2-ranked Clemson. Virginia Tech has an impressive 31-24 win over West Virginia and has beaten Delaware (27-0), East Carolina (64-17), Boston College (23-10) and Old Dominion (38-0).
September Duke success meter: A win for the Blue Devils is unlikely at this point.
Current Duke success meter: Yes Duke’s won its last two trips to Lane Stadium, but that streak still appears doomed.
Nov. 11 at Army
So far: The Black Knights have proven formidable on their home field at West Point, N.Y, with wins over Fordham (64-6), Buffalo (21-17) and Texas-El Paso (35-21). Not exactly murderer’s row, but, hey, you play who you play when you’re an independent. Army’s only test against a power five team was a 38-7 loss at Ohio State. Still, Duke gets an open week before this game and that will help against the triple-option.
September Duke success meter: Count on a win from the Blue Devils.
Current Duke success meter: Still looks that way.
Nov. 18 Georgia Tech
Record: 3-1, 2-0 ACC
So far: The Yellow Jackets look very much like a team that can challenge Miami and Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title. Junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall is a serious weapon in the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack. Duke plays option teams on back-to-back weeks, which will help. But probably not enough.
September Duke success meter: Can’t count on Duke winning.
Current Duke success meter: Still projects as a Yellow Jackets win.
Nov. 25 at Wake Forest
Record: 4-2, 1-2 in ACC
So far: Duke and Wake Forest both won their first four games. Both teams then lost their next two. If their paths continue to look the same, it will come down to their matchup in the regular-season finale. There’s a chance both could need this win to become bowl eligible. Or maybe to move up in the bowl pecking order.
September Duke success meter: Toss up with a lean toward Duke.
Current Duke success meter: Even after each played six games, it’s still a true toss-up at this point.