Duke Football Bowl Bound? It Just Might Happen

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 26, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 29:  Jabari Marshall #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts on the field during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In the words of the immortal Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is goin' on out here?"

Duke is actually close to being bowl eligible, and it is late October.

The Blue Devils (4-3, 2-1) haven't played in a bowl since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl and haven't even come close to eligibility since.

So imagine my surprise to look at this week's version of ESPN's bowl projections and see Duke projected to be the ACC representative for the GMAC Bowl.

Don't believe me? Look for yourself.

Duke is on a bit of a hot streak after winning two straight conference games for the first time since 1994. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence that that is also the same season they last went to a bowl game.

But for the Blue Devils, who have been mired in college football's darkest recesses for years, this prediction is a sign of hope that things are changing.

Coach David Cutcliffe has said on multiple occasions that he expects to win at Duke. If he were to take the Blue Devils to a bowl game in year two, then someone better vote him in as a coach of the year candidate.

Cutcliffe, however, would be the first to admit that Duke still has a long way to go. They need three wins in their remaining five games.

Normally teams only need six wins, but because one of Duke's four came against North Carolina Central, who is just transitioning to FCS status, the NCAA will not accept them as a win toward bowl eligibility.

Of their remaining five games, two of them come against currently ranked teams and three are on the road.

Probably their best shot at wins are Virginia this week, North Carolina the following week, and the last game of the season against Wake Forest.

Only one of those games is at home. To make maters worse, Virginia is hitting its stride, and what seemed like a likely win earlier doesn't look so likely now.

North Carolina is struggling after early season expections were high. They will be chomping at the bit to get an ACC win if they can't pull one out in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech on Thursday.

Wake Forest is on shaky ground right now, but Duke hasn't beaten them in a while, although their games are typically close.

In fact, the only team left on the schedule the Blue Devils have beaten recently is Virginia. That was last year, so we all know the Cavaliers will be anxious for revenge. 

If Duke can continue to get the same high level of performance out of quarterback Thad Lewis, though, with some improvement from their running game, the Blue Devils could surprise some people—especially if their defense plays the way they did against Maryland.

If all that happens, then who knows? These Devils may just go bowling after all.