Another college football season is nearing an end and the Duke Blue Devils find themselves on the outside looking in; again.
At 3-7 Duke has no way of making a bowl game, something they haven't done since 1994. They also will post their 16th consecutive loosing season.
These are all facts that Duke fans are accustomed to. Coach David Cutcliffe sees things getting better and it is really hard to disagree with him.
The Blue Devils have been significantly more competitive since he arrived. Even this year, which has the potential to be his worst season since taking over, has had its fair share of close but no cigar games.
Wake Forest, Maryland, and Boston College, are all games Duke could have won and only lost by a touchdown or less.
The Blue Devils have one of the most efficient red zone scoring offenses in the ACC if not the country, scoring on about 90 percent or more of their trips into the red zone.
Yet the inability to score touchdowns has cost them in several occasions. When a team gets into the red zone it expects to score touchdowns and Duke just isn't doing that.
A field goal is nice, but little consolation can be found when you loose two games by five points (Maryland and BC) and in both of those games there were at least five red zone scoring opportunities that either resulted in field goals or nothing.
How far is Duke away from being a program capable of winning consistently?
Cutcliffe is still optimistic saying that he believes that Duke is still headed in the right direction. And he is correct, they are. Everything about the program is improving at this point except the record.
Recruiting is substantially better, the team is more competitive, and even the facilities which are seemingly as old as time itself are getting a face-lift.
Still the frustrations of 16 years of consistent mediocrity and misery are hard to shake off. Duke's attendance against Boston College was a shade over 21,000. Wallace Wade holds about 33,000 fans so even when the team still has a chance of bowl eligibility fans aren't turning out.
Basketball season has hit Durham so the football team is now an afterthought.The Blue Devils have two games remaining one at Georgia Tech and the finale at home against arch rival North Carolina.
While Duke can certainly win both, they will be underdogs in both. With chances of a bowl now gone and little fan support it will be difficult no matter how optimistic the coach is to stay motivated.
Still even one more win would give the team something to build off of in the winter and spring. Fans have heard that song and dance before but one has to believe things are finally going to turn the corner for Duke football.
Most of its key players on both sides of the ball return next year, and Cutcliffe has played a lot of young players developing them for next season and beyond.
Duke fans must realize that while it is understandable to be frustrated, no one could have made this team a winner any faster.
Fans accustomed to the winning ways of the basketball program can be hypercritical of Cutcliffe and his decisions, but with a little patience this team will be in a bowl and it should come next year when they are a year older, stronger, wiser and when they are ready to change the status quo from loosing to winning.