The magic number is three. With their current 3-1 record, Duke football needs just three more wins to become bowl eligible. When you look at their next three games-Virginia, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina-that magic number could dwindle in a hurry. This is a critical stretch for the Blue Devils.
What’s the hurry?
Duke has played just four of their twelve games and is only now beginning play in the ACC. So, why are these three games such a critical stretch? Because when you look down the road, Miami, Pitt, and Wake Forest are looming. Even with Miami’s loss to Middle Tennessee last week, I don’t expect the Blue Devils to be favored in any of these games. Virginia Tech has been up and down to this point and seem to be still adjusting to a new head coach, but I still think they can be dangerous. The Blue Devils don’t have a lot of margin for error. They need to win games they should win and the three upcoming games against Virginia, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina are all games they should win.
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How do the Blue Devils matchup?
Although Virginia presents the best defense the Blue Devils have faced to date, I still think quarterback Riley Leonard will be able to do enough to get a win. Also, Duke’s defense is more than capable of extending the offensive woes for Virginia for another game.
At 1-3 and with their only win coming against Western Carolina, Georgia Tech has been a mess so far and finally made a coaching change. It remains to be seen how they will respond, but I still think the Blue Devils are clearly the better team. Leonard and the offense should be able to take advantage of a defense that has given up thirty-six points per game in their losses, which are all against FBS teams.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is certainly a concern. He threw for three hundred yards and five touchdowns against Notre Dame last week, but completed barely fifty percent of his passes and was sacked three times. The Tar Heels also gave up nearly three hundred yards passing AND rushing. That’s not three hundred passing and rushing combined-that’s each. The Irish put up 576 yards of total offense. Some will say, “Yeah, but they’re 3-1!” Take a look at those three wins. Florida A&M, Appalachian State, and Georgia State. Hey, that’s great if you’re trying to win the Sun Belt title, but it isn’t impressive if you’re a Power 5 team. The Blue Devils have the Tar Heels at home and should be favored.
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Why is going bowling so important?
Getting to a bowl this year after 2021’s 3-9 season and winning just ten games in three years would be a monumental achievement for first-year head coach Mike Elko and his program. It would give them an enormous boost heading into the offseason and give fans a reason to be excited and look forward to the next season. Going to a bowl is also a recruiting tool. Elko has shown he is a capable recruiter and It will be a lot easier for him to sell a recruit on his program when you can point to a bowl trip as a sign of the direction Duke football is heading. But the biggest reason I think it is important to reach a bowl is because of the extra fifteen practice sessions they’ll be allotted. Coaching staffs do not use all of those on the gameplan for the upcoming opponent. They treat the majority of the sessions like spring practice. Time is spent with the younger players working on technique and fundamentals. That extra practice time will be invaluable to this Duke team.
The benefits of getting to a bowl are immeasurable. This critical three-game stretch gives the Blue Devils a chance to become eligible just past the midpoint of the season. Virginia is up first. Let’s see that magic number reduced to two.