Duke's football team has been labeled by many fans as the worst collegiate football program in the NCAA. As a Duke fan, it is hard to prove the doubters wrong when there is little to no evidence backing up your belief that the program has had some success over the past decade. Well college football landscape, look out for the Blue Devils in 2009.
Behind second year coach David Cutcliffe and All-ACC Second Team QB Thaddeus Lewis, Duke football looks to have success during this upcoming season. There have even been talks of Duke possibly bidding for a bowl berth for the first time since the 1994 season, but lets not get too far ahead of ourselves.
The Blue Devils' have a difficult road ahead, but after spending a full year learning Coach Cutcliffe's system, the Devils should look to be even better than their 4-8 record in 2008. Look out ACC, because the Blue Devils are a push-over no longer!
Players To Watch During 2009:
- Senior RB Re'Quan Boyette: Boyette looks healthy after an injury-plagued 2008 season and should contend for the starting RB position.
- Senior DL Vince Oghobaase: Oghobaase has already been named to the Outland Trophy, Chuck Bednarik, Lott Trophy and Bronco Nagurski Watch List and is one of best defensive linemen in the ACC.
- Senior QB Thaddeus Lewis: Lewis is the leading returning passer in the ACC for the 2009 season and has been named to the Manning Award Watch List. The Manning Award is given out annually to the nation's top Quarterback.
- Freshman RB Desmond Scott: Scott, one of Duke's most highly touted recruits in years, is a homerun hitter who has lightning quick speed and is prepared to challenge for the starting RB spot.
- Sophomore WR Johnny Williams: Williams will likely see lots of playing time and will need to fill the void left by the graduation of Eron Riley.
- Senior LB Vincent Rey: Rey is one of the best linebackers in the conference and will need to play well during his final season in Durham.
Games To Watch During 2009:
The 2008 Duke football season saw the Blue Devils take a 3-1 overall record into October. Early wins over James Madison, Navy and ACC-foe Virginia showed that the Devils could actually succeed under Cutcliffe, but losing the final five games of the season diminished any hopes of becoming a decent program anytime soon.
The 2009-2010 schedule looks to be in favor of Duke at the beginning of the season, but gets tougher virtually every game. Here are games that will be crucial if the Devils want to have any chance of contending in the ACC:
Sept. 5- Richmond @ Duke: The beginning of Duke's 2009 schedule pits the Devils vs. Richmond. Many believe that Duke has a great chance to win their season opener, and on paper they may be right. However, Richmond is an outstanding Championship Subdivision team that has the chance to push Duke to the limit.
Sept. 19- Duke @ Kansas: This game has the makings for Duke to put its name on the map, but first it must overcome the Jayhawks. Kansas has compiled a great record over the past few seasons and is looking to challenge in the Big 12. Big non-conference game for the Devils to win, especially if they want a bowl berth.
Oct. 3- Virginia Tech @ Duke: The defending ACC Champs pay a visit to Durham in this October 3rd game. The game between these two schools in 2008 was a narrow 14-3 win for the Hokies as Duke QB Thad Lewis was forced to sit out of the game due to injury. If Duke wants any chances of being an above .500 team, they first must beat one of the best teams the conference has to offer.
Nov. 7- Duke @ North Carolina: Duke has come close to beating their rivals in each of the past two seasons. Last season, the game was even nationally televised by ESPNU. The Blue Devils were in each of the last two games between the schools, but a mistake or two have cost the Devils wins against their archrival. Duke can ill-afford to make a mistake in the final minutes if they hope to come out of Chapel Hill with a win.
Nov. 28- Wake Forest @ Duke: If the Blue Devils want any chance of getting a berth into a bowl, they must win their season finale against the Deacons. Last season saw the Deacons win in OT and crush the spirits of all Duke fans alike. If the game in 2009 has the same result, it may cost Duke a chance at becoming a bowl eligible team.
So you see college football, Duke has a shot to become a good team during the 2009-2010 football season. With winnable games against Richmond, Army and North Carolina Central, Duke has the possibility to improve their record from a year ago.
If the Blue Devils hope to become one of the elite NCAA football programs in the years to come, they first must beat the best. To do so, they will have to win 2 or 3 ACC games this season and make a run for a bowl-berth. If they can somehow find a way to become bowl-eligible, then I believe that the Duke program will be able to rebuild in the following years to come.
Duke fans, be optimistic.
Don't believe that your Devils have no chance at making a run for the ACC title, because they certainly have the players and personnel to do so. Thad Lewis will give us one more strong year at QB, Coach Cutcliffe will continue to recruit well and the Duke football program will once again compete at a high level.
Look out college football, the Blue Devils are back!