Duke

Duke needs three more wins to make a bowl. Here’s a look at the rest of its season.

Duke started the season staring down a difficult schedule, with four opponents having double-digit win totals a season ago.

That includes College Football Playoff teams Alabama and Notre Dame.

Returning to a bowl game, which would make it seven bowl appearances in eight seasons, looked like an uphill battle for the Blue Devils.

But last Friday night’s 45-10 blowout win at Virginia Tech, coming on the heels of beating NC A&T 45-13 and Middle Tennessee State 41-18, changed the perception of Duke and its bowl chances.

Redshirt quarterback Quentin Harris runs the Duke offense well in his first season as a starter. He’s benefiting from freshmen wide receivers Jalon Calhoun and Eli Pancol being instant contributors. Duke’s offensive line has played so well Harris has only been sacked once this season.

Duke’s defense slowed Alabama for a half in a season-opening loss and has played well in the three weeks since then.

In the wild-and-crazy ACC Coastal Division, champions come from unlikely places. Only Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech look like they won’t contend.

Duke (3-1, 1-0 ACC) wants to make a bowl and contend for the Coastal title. Both are possible. Here’s a look at the rest of Duke’s schedule as it attempts to get to six wins -- and maybe more:

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Pitt

When: Oct. 5, 8 p.m.

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: ACC Network

Coach: Pat Narduzzi

2019 record: 3-2, 0-1 ACC

So far: The Panthers nearly upset Penn State, losing 17-10 at Happy Valley on Sept. 14, before claiming a top-25 win with a 35-34 home triumph over Central Florida a week later.

Concern or optimism? Concern rules in this series for Duke until the Blue Devils prove otherwise. Pitt is 5-1 against Duke since entering the ACC in 2013. The Panthers have scored 50 or more points in three of those wins and even scored 48 the only time Duke beat them in ACC play in 2014. This game will tell us a lot about where Duke’s season is headed.

Georgia Tech

When: Oct. 12, 12:30 p.m.

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: Fox Sports South

Coach: Geoff Collins

2019 record: 1-3, 0-1 ACC

So far: In his first season, Collins is transitioning the Yellow Jackets out of the triple-option and into a conventional offense. So far, not good. The Yellow Jackets lost 27-24 in overtime to The Citadel on Sept. 14 and were whipped 24-2 by Temple last Saturday.

Concern or optimism? Duke fans should absolutely expect a win here. Georgia Tech was expected to struggle this season and that is what is happening. One other thing in Duke’s favor: The Blue Devils played Temple in the Independence Bowl last December. Collins coached that Owls team in the regular season before accepting the Georgia Tech job. So Duke’s coaches and players should be familiar with what Collins’ teams do.

at Virginia

When: Oct. 19

Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

Watch: TBA

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall

2019 record: 4-1, 2-0 ACC

So far: The Cavaliers jumped into the top 25 with four wins to open the season and stayed at No. 23 following a 35-20 loss at No. 9 Notre Dame last Saturday. Virginia remains the Coastal Division favorite.

Concern or optimism? Duke’s lost four in a row to Virginia and halting that skid will be a serious challenge. Cavaliers quarterback Bryce Perkins is a playmaker via the run and the pass who gives defenses fits. Virginia’s defense has allowed 21.4 points per game, although Notre Dame’s 35 points and the 24 Florida State scored against the Cavaliers revealed some weak areas. Turnovers have hurt Duke the last three seasons against Virginia. Watch out for that statistic here since Virginia’ Perkins has thrown an ACC-worst six interceptions already.

UNC

When: Oct. 26

Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill

Watch: TBA

Coach: Mack Brown

2019 record: 2-3, 1-1 ACC

So far: Brown’s return has the Tar Heels a threat to beat anyone this season. Just ask Clemson after the Tigers escaped with a 21-20 win last Saturday. All of UNC’s games have been decided by six points or less.

Concern or optimism? It’s a fierce rivalry so no one feels super comfortable entering a game like this. Duke has won five of the last seven against UNC. Brown won his final eight games against Duke to end his first tenure with the Tar Heels in 1997. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell is an instant star for UNC. The Tar Heels defense is playing better than the last two seasons. All that said, Duke needs this win if it wants to compete in the Coastal race. A true toss-up here.

Notre Dame

When: Nov. 9

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: ACC Network

Coach: Brian Kelly

2019 record: 3-1

So far: It sure looks like the Irish will arrive in Durham sporting a 6-1 record and ranked among the nation’s top 10 teams. Quarterback Ian Book leads a powerful offense averaging 38.3 points per game. Notre Dame is 25-5 dating back to the start of the 2017 season.

Concern or optimism? When the season started, it was hard to see Duke beating either of the 2018 College Football Playoff teams on its schedule. Alabama whipped the Blue Devils 42-3 and Notre Dame is capable of doing the same. Duke does have an open week heading into this one, so the Blue Devils should be feeling good physically. The outcome of this game can only help, not hurt, Duke’s chances of getting to six wins because this looked like a loss before the season started.

Syracuse

When: Nov. 16

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: TBA

Coach: Dino Babers

2019 record: 3-2, 0-1 ACC

So far: It’s been a weird season for the Orange. They’ve blown out three opponents, beating Liberty 24-0, Western Michigan 52-33 and Holy Cross 41-3. Syracuse’s two losses have also been lopsided -- a 63-20 loss to Maryland and a 41-6 loss to Clemson.

Concern or optimism? Duke should have more optimism about this game now than it did when the season started. Syracuse started the season ranked No. 22 and expecting to challenge Clemson in the ACC Atlantic. But quarterback Tommy DeVito threw five interceptions over the season’s first five games and the Syracuse defense hasn’t been strong. This is another swing game to Duke’s bowl hopes. A win here would be a big boost and it is certainly possible.

Wake Forest

When: Nov. 23

Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem

Watch: TBA

Coach: Dave Clawson

2019 record: 5-0, 1-0 ACC

So far: The Demon Deacons, ranked No. 22 this week, can make a case for being the ACC’s second-best team. Quarterback Jamie Newman is highly efficient with 14 touchdown passes against only three interceptions. The defense isn’t locked down but makes the necessary plays when needed.

Concern or optimism? The Blue Devils should be concerned with this trip to Winston-Salem. The talent differential isn’t that great between the teams, even if last season’s 59-7 Wake wipeout of Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium made it appear that way. The Blue Devils will want to show they are far better than that. But Wake could be on its way to winning nine or 10 regular-season games. Seriously. Very intriguing game here.

Miami

When: Nov. 23

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: TBA

Coach: Manny Diaz

2019 record: 2-2, 0-1 ACC

So far: Miami opened the season 0-2, losing 24-20 to Florida and 28-25 at North Carolina in two unsightly performances. Even the Hurricanes’ most-recent, 17-12 over Central Michigan on Sept. 21, wasn’t solid. Miami’s October games at home with Virginia and at Pittsburgh will determine its Coastal title hopes.

Concern or optimism? Too soon to tell. Duke posted an impressive 20-12 November win at Miami last year to reach bowl eligibility. The Blue Devils have the athletes to match up with Miami. But Hurricanes freshman quarterback Jarren Williams could be a problem for Duke. In his first four games, he’s completed 72.6 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.
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