Duke football needs to win these three road games to have a successful 2024

For Duke to have a successful 2024 season, these three road games need to go the way of the Blue Devils.
Nov 25, 2017; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; The Duke Blue Devils mascot stands on the sidelines in the
Nov 25, 2017; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; The Duke Blue Devils mascot stands on the sidelines in the / Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The upcoming 2024 Duke football season could be a pivotal campaign for the program. That's usually the case when a program hires a new head coach but it is even more the case for the Blue Devils this fall.

On one hand, Duke appears to have its arrow pointed in the right direction. The program has won at least eight games in each of the last two seasons and has won two straight bowl games.

What's more, in the last two seasons, Duke has gone a combined 9-7 in ACC play. That record is nothing to sneeze at for a program that has had 13 losing seasons in the last 20 years.

However, those accomplishments all came under the guidance of former head coach Mike Elko who is now the head man at Texas A&M. That means that the continued success of the program now rests in the hands of an unproven head coach.

Manny Diaz has just three years of experience as a head coach, all of which came at Miami where there is much more tradition and infrastructure in place than there is in Durham. Also, Diaz is far from a big-time winner having gone just 21-15 overall with the Hurricanes.

This coming season, the goal is simply for Diaz to get Duke back to the postseason, though. That will require only a 6-6 regular season, a reasonable goal for any coach in his first year with a program such as Duke.

For Diaz to clear that bar, winning away from Durham will be key. We recently looked at three toss-up home games that could determine how 2024 plays out, so now, let's look at three road games that will loom large for Diaz and his team this fall.

Duke @ Northwestern: September 7

In week two of the season, Duke will travel to Chicago to face Northwestern in a game that will be important in helping the Blue Devils get to six wins or more. This will be the first test of the Diaz era after the season opens at home against FCS opponent Elon and it won't be an easy task to come out on top.

Last season, Northwestern went 8-5 overall and 5-2 at home. What's more, the Wildcats beat Duke in Durham 38-14 in the third game of last season.

It was an impressive season considering that Northwestern was playing for interim head coach David Braun following the unusual end of the Pat Fitzgerald era, which came about in July of 2023. Now. Braun is the permanent man in charge and he will look to build upon what he accomplished last season.

However, starting QB Brendan Sullivan has transferred to Iowa leaving the Northwestern offense with a huge hole to fill. Also, the Wildcats will have to play their home games at a temporary facility this year due to construction at their home field. That should make the home atmosphere less intimidating and give Duke every reason to think it can capture this game.

Duke @ Georgia Tech: October 5

When Duke heads to Atlanta in early October, plenty could be on the line. That's because this game falls in an interesting place on the schedule.

The week prior, Duke will host rival North Carolina in what is always a rather emotional tilt. Then, after playing the Yellowjackets, the Blue Devils will have an open week before a tough home test against Florida State.

On the other hand, the good news is that the trip to Atlanta is the only road game Duke will play over the span of four games. So if Diaz's team can find a way to win, that stretch could propel the Blue Devils to a nice year.

It won't be easy though. Georgia Tech enters 2024 with plenty of expectations after a 7-6 2023 that included a bowl win. Still, this is a game that Duke should expect to win if the Blue Devils have designs on playing in the postseason this year.

Duke @ Wake Forest: November 30

It isn't hard to imagine Duke rolling into the regular season finale at Wake Forest with something to play for. Either the team will have surpassed expectations and will be trying to improve its postseason positioning or there could be a scenario in which Duke needs a win to just qualify for a bowl. (Of course, if things go terribly wrong this season, then this could be a meaningless game but let's be optimistic for now.)

Wake is a program Duke could be primed to beat. Last season, the Demon Deacons went just 4-8 overall and 1-7 in ACC play.

This year, not much more is expected of a program with massive issues at quarterback and a defense that needed a significant overhaul after a poor 2023. In fact, Wake will be projected to be one of the weakest teams in the conference this season.

Duke has won the last two meetings vs. Wake but both were in Durham. It has been since 2017 that the Blue Devils have won in Winston-Salem. That streak should end this year and if it does, Duke will likely be headed back to a bowl game for the third year in a row.