Duke

Duke needs 5 more wins to make a bowl game. Here’s how the Blue Devils can do it.

Duke’s Brittain Brown, left, celebrates his touchdown with Julian Santos, middle, against N.C. Central University on Saturday.
Duke’s Brittain Brown, left, celebrates his touchdown with Julian Santos, middle, against N.C. Central University on Saturday. bthomas@heraldsun.com

As expected, Duke got its first win of the new season with a 60-7 manhandling of its FCS neighbor, N.C. Central.

Any path that leads the Blue Devils back to a bowl included a win over the Eagles. Duke didn’t make a bowl last season after playing in one for four straight seasons.

Duke needs six wins – and possibly only five – to be bowl eligible. If 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowl slots, Duke is fourth behind Northwestern, Air Force and Michigan among FBS teams in the key APR standings.

So now that the first win is secured, here’s a look at the rest of Duke’s schedule.

Saturday, Northwestern

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Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, middle, celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Nevada on Saturday. Matt Marton AP

Week 1: Won 31-20 at home over Nevada

Northwestern trailed 17-7 at halftime but rallied behind quarterback Clayton Thorson in the second half. The Wildcats, who committed eight penalties, are beat up at cornerback, and Nevada took advantage with big plays. Now, before Blue Devils fans chalk up a win, remember that last season Northwestern lost to Illinois State and Western Michigan before beating Duke in Week 3.

Duke success meter: Toss up with a lean toward Duke

Sept. 16, Baylor

Week 1: Lost 48-45 at home to Liberty

Thanks to UNLV (Howard!), Baylor wasn’t the victim of the week’s biggest upset. But only because of UNLV’s 43-40 loss to Howard. In Baylor’s loss to Liberty, the Bears’ defense allowed 585 yards, and their offense moved the ball well but had three turnovers. Baylor’s program is in turmoil off the field and, perhaps, on the field as well. Let’s see what happens against Texas-San Antonio on Saturday before Baylor comes to Durham.

Duke success meter: A home game that Duke should win

Sept. 23, At North Carolina

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UNC’s Brandon Harris runs the ball as California’s Devante Downs, left, closes in on him on Saturday. Chris Seward cseward@newsobserver.com

Week 1: Lost 35-30 at home to Cal

The defense that was supposed to be UNC’s strength was porous against a Cal offense led by a quarterback making his first collegiate start. The Tar Heels’ offense scored enough to win but turnovers were costly. Maybe by the time Duke heads to UNC, Larry Fedora, the Tar Heels’ coach, will have settled on a quarterback.

Duke success meter: More winnable than last year when Duke, you know, won

Sept. 29, Miami

Week 1: Won 41-13 at home over Bethune-Cookman

Going into the season, the Hurricanes had questions at quarterback. Malik Rosier, however, answered them with three touchdown passes. Miami running back Mark Walton looked good, rushing for 148 yards. The Hurricanes had eight penalties but no turnovers.

Duke success meter: A Duke win would be an upset.

Oct. 7, At Virginia

William & Mary Virginia Football
Virginia’s Daniel Hamm, middle, runs with a ball while William and Mary’s Matt Ahola tries to tackle him on Saturday. Daniel Sangjib Min AP

Week 1: Won 28-10 at home over William & Mary

Virginia averaged an underwhelming 2.9 yards per carry against the Tribe, while William and Mary averaged 4.1 yards. That’s scary for the Wahoos’ defense. The Cavaliers get an open week before Duke arrives, though, which should help them.

Duke success meter: Hard to find a path to Duke bowl eligibility that doesn’t include a win over the Cavaliers

Oct. 14, Florida State

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Alabama’s Levi Wallace, left, breaks up a pass intended for Florida State’s Auden Tate on Saturday. Scott Cunningham Getty Images

Week 1: Lost 24-7 to Alabama

Florida State was a national title contender when Saturday began, but everything came unraveled in one game. The loss was one thing. Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois’ season-ending knee injury is the real killer. That doesn’t mean the Seminoles are headed for a losing season. But a pall has been cast.

Duke success meter: Yeah? Maybe? No. It’s still no.

Oct. 21 Pittsburgh

Week 1: Won 28-21 in overtime over Youngstown State at home

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi kept things very simple against the FCS Penguins, and it nearly lead to a huge upset. Pitt’s defense was lit up by explosive plays. (Two Youngstown State receivers surpassed 100 yards). We’ll learn much more about the Panthers when they play at Penn State this week.

Duke success meter: Toss up with a lean toward Pitt

Oct. 28, At Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech running back Steven Peoples, left, is tripped up by West Virginia safety Toyous Avery on Sunday. Rob Carr Getty Images

Week 1: Won 28-21 over West Virginia

The Hokies won 10 games in coach Justin Fuente’s first season, and the win over the Mountaineers has them looking like Virginia Tech is heading for a season-long stay in the top 25. Duke has won its last two games at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., but this looks like a different breed of Hokie.

Duke success meter: A win for the Blue Devils is unlikely at this point

Nov. 11, At Army

Week 1: Won 64-6 over Fordham at home

Heading into the season, only the NCCU game looked more like a sure win for Duke than this one. The Black Knights played well in week 1. But Duke still gets a bye week before playing two straight games against triple-option teams. This game is a way for Duke to prep for Georgia Tech the following week.

Duke success meter: Count on a win from the Blue Devils

Nov. 18, Georgia Tech

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Georgia Tech place kicker Shawn Davis (88) has his field goal attempt blocked by Tennessee defensive lineman Paul Bai, center, in the final seconds of the second half on Monday. John Bazemore AP

Week 1: Lost 42-41 in double overtime to Tennessee

Georgia Tech lost three players who combined to gain 60 percent of its rushing yards last season. But junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall churned out enough yards to show the Yellow Jackets’ triple-opton attack remains potent.

Duke success meter: Can’t count Duke winning.

Nov. 25, At Wake Forest

Week 1: Won 51-7 over Presbyterian at home

Wake quarterback Kendall Hinton played a big role in the Demon Deacons beating Duke last season. John Wolford is Wake’s starting quarterback this season and played well against the Blue Hose on Saturday. No way to tell at this point what these teams will look like after Thanksgiving. But Duke needs this win.

Duke success meter: Toss up with a lean toward Duke

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

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