Duke needs to win two more football games this season, perhaps just one more, to get back to a bowl game.
Bovada.LV posted its preseason over-under win totals and has the Blue Devils at 5.5, right on the cusp of their goal.
Last season, Duke went 4-8 and failed to play in a bowl for the first time since 2011.
The magic number to qualify for a bowl game is six regular-season wins with no more than one being against a Football Championship Subdivision team.
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Of course, the bowls have needed to bring in teams with 5-7 regular-season records to fill their games the last two seasons because there weren’t enough six-win teams available. Duke has the best APR score in FBS, which means a five-win Duke team would be first in line to get a berth if those spots become available.
All that said, a look at the over-under totals for all of Duke’s opponents shows the Blue Devils face an uphill battle. Bovada has only one of the 11 FBS teams on Duke’s schedule with a lower over-under win total than the Blue Devils.
That would be Virginia at 5.
Wake Forest’s 5.5 win total matches Duke.
Other than that, the other nine teams have higher win totals.
Here’s a game-by-game look at Duke’s schedule with the opponent’s win totals with one exception:
Bovada doesn’t do over-under win totals for Football Championship Subdivision programs like N.C. Central, which Duke opens the season with on Sept. 2 in the Bull City Gridiron Classic.
So we’ll jump right in with Duke’s second game of the season
The Blue Devils are in the midst of playing four games in four seasons against Northwestern. Duke has lost the first two games of the series. Now, eight looks like a big number for a Big Ten team, but consider that Northwestern doesn’t play Ohio State or Michigan this season.
Duke and Baylor have only played once previously -- in 1958. So this is new territory. This will be Baylor’s first road game of the season and comes one week before the Bears play Oklahoma. Like Northwestern, consider this a swing game for Duke’s season because losing two non-conference games would make it tough for Duke to make a bowl game.
Duke’s upset win over UNC in November at home was a highlight in an otherwise dismal season. But winning at Kenan Stadium is a different story. Duke has only one win there -- in 2013 -- since 2003. Bovada has the Tar Heels headed to a bowl game despite needing to replace its top skill players on offense from last season.
The Hurricanes are the favorites to win the ACC Coastal Division. This will be Miami’s third road game among its first five games so being away from home shouldn’t hurt the Hurricanes in this one. Since Miami entered the ACC in 2005, it has played Duke annually and only lost once -- in 2013.
This will be Duke’s second road game of the season and its first trip outside of the Triangle. A loss to the Cavaliers last season proved deadly to Duke’s bowl chances. This is the only team with a lower over-under total on Duke’s schedule. So the Blue Devils need this one.
Duke hasn’t played Florida State in the regular season since 2012. The team’s met in the 2013 ACC championship game. Both were lopsided Seminole wins. Duke has yet to beat FSU in 19 tries.
Like UNC, this is a swing game that will give an indication of where Duke’s season is going. The Panthers win total is better than Duke’s but not significantly. So an upset is possible at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Yes, Vegas thinks much more highly of the Hokies than Duke. But remember that Duke is 2-0 in its last two games at Lane Stadium. Also, each of the last four games in this series have been decided by a field goal or less.
Duke’s trip to West Point on Veterans Day will provide a special atmosphere. But the Blue Devils need to take care of business here, like they did in 2015 with a 44-3 win over the Black Knights at Michie Stadium. Vegas has Army going to a bowl for the second year in a row so this could be a tough fight for Duke.
Playing Army and Georgia Tech in back-to-back weeks, following an open week, gives Duke an advantage here. The Blue Devils’ defense can work on facing the triple-option three weeks in a row. Georgia Tech joins Duke and Virginia as the only Coastal Division teams with over-under win totals under 7. So the Blue Devils have a great chance to get a win in their home finale.
During David Cutcliffe’s first nine seasons as Duke’s coach, the Blue Devils have made bowl games when they beat Wake Forest and failed in that quest in seasons they’ve lost to the Demon Deacons. Last season Wake Forest won 24-14 at Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke needs to reverse that this season in Winston-Salem in the regular-season finale.