Duke's 2010 football schedule has been announced and at first glance, it appears the Blue Devils have a legitimate opportunity to reach their first bowl in 16 years.
The schedule, which features seven home games including defending BCS Champion Alabama, does not however, feature many surefire wins.
The Blue Devils may feel like they are back in the 1960s when they faced three teams that run the triple option.
Under David Cutcliffe, Duke has an infinitely improved program, yet they still aren't at the level where they can even pencil in a win against anyone.
This past season's opening loss to Richmond confirmed that. And with next year's team having to break in several new components including quarterback, there is still little room for error.
Elon Sept. 4
The Phoenix are an improved and capable FCS school who can contend with Duke.
The Blue Devils should win this game but nothing is certain.
Wake Forest Sept. 11
If Duke can get a win in Week one, the Deacons who will be breaking in a new quarterback themselves, will provide the Devils with an opportunity to make an early statement.
Duke can win this game but it is by no means a should-win game. There are too many unknowns to accurately predict a favorite so this game amounts to a toss.
Alabama Sept. 18
This is a great opportunity for Cutcliffe to measure how far his program has come and how far they still need to go.
I can see this game being moderately competitive for the most a quarter before the horses for the Tide, including Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram, run roughshod all over the Blue Devils.
This game is nothing more than an opportunity for Duke, anything remotely in the way of a competitive game is gravy.
Army Sept. 25
Duke beat the Black Knights last season at West Point and will be looking for a repeat performance.
Army is sure to provide the same tough, hardnosed play with that old triple option attack that can drive teams nuts.
As long as the Blue Devils defense isn't too decimated after the Alabama game, they should be able to pull out a win but like most games, nothing is in the bag.
Maryland Oct. 2
Duke won an ugly game against Maryland last year against a fairly weak Terp squad.
The Terps should be better next season, but how much better remains to be seen. They may have a slight advantage playing at home, but this is a game Duke can and depending on how their young players have developed, should win.
Miami Oct. 16
The Blue Devils could've, should've, put a loss on Miami last season but just didn't have enough in the tank to hold off the Canes.
Miami should show even more improvement and given Duke's expected growing pains, I doubt this game will be as close and should be a win for the boys from The U.
Virginia Tech Oct. 23
The Hokies had a tough time shaking Duke last season, but they will be playing in Blacksburg next year.
Duke can expect a lot of heat from the Bud Foster-led defense and hopefully can have enough offensive players left to play their next game.
Navy Oct. 30
The Midshipmen have been arguably the best Service academy when it comes to football. They haven't missed a beat since Paul Johnson left and their vaunted triple option is still a headache to prepare for and stop.
This should be a high scoring affair and if the recent history between the two teams is any indication, it could come down to who can stop who or who can hit a field goal at the right time.
Virginia Nov. 6
Duke has found a lot of success the last two seasons beating the Cavaliers. However, new coach Mike London has beaten Duke two consecutive times as the coach of the Richmond Spiders.
Virginia is very much in rebuilding mode but London could make a big difference. This is another game Duke should and probably must win, if they want to play in a bowl.
Boston College Nov. 13
Since expansion, Duke has only played the Eagles once. BC is still rebuilding, but always finds a way to be a solid team regardless of low expectations and slow starts.
They may have inspirational leader Mark Herzlich back on the defensive side of the ball. I expect them to be pretty difficult for Duke to beat.
They can beat them but I'm not betting on it.
Georgia Tech Nov. 20
The Yellow Jackets have run all over the Blue Devils since Paul Johnson said no to Duke and yes to the Tech job.
This will be the third and probably the best, of three triple option offenses Duke will face in 2010. While Navy and Army will give the Blue Devil's defense some practice, neither can match the speed or strength the Jackets will bring.
I expect another lopsided game in favor or the defending ACC Champions.
North Carolina Nov. 27
The heated rivalry is back in its appropriate place as the season finale for both teams. This could prove to be a crucial game for the Blue Devils' bowl hopes.
The Tar Heels are expected to be good, but that is what the experts have said since Butch Davis showed up in Chapel Hill. So far they have underachieved despite two consecutive bowl appearances. Both resulted in close losses.
Will they break through next year? I'm not going to hold my breath and I have this game as a toss.
Duke has a real chance to make a run at a bowl, but so much will depend on the development of a quarterback as well as how well both the offensive and defensive lines develop.
If the Blue Devils can develop some depth, and win a majority of the toss up games, then they should be bowling in late 2010 or early 2011.