Three toss-up home games that could flip the 2024 Duke football season

These three Duke football home games will be toss-up affairs and how they go could determine the fate of the 2024 season.
Nov 25, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils run out before the first half of the
Nov 25, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils run out before the first half of the / Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Defending your home turf is always critical in sports. That's especially true in college football where home games are the lifeblood of any program.

That's an area where Duke was especially strong in 2023. Going 6-1 at Wallace Wade Stadium, the Blue Devils took care of business in their own house on the way to a nice 8-5 season.

That marked the second year in a row that Duke had just one home loss. In 2022, the program was 5-1 in Durham meaning that over the past two seasons, Duke has gone 11-2 at home.

This year, there will be six more home games for the Blue Devils. Elon, UCONN, North Carolina, Florida State, SMU, and Virginia Tech all have to come to Durham to play. So let's take a look at the three of those games that should be toss-ups because each could tip the balance of the season for Manny Diaz and his team.

Duke vs. North Carolina

In the fifth game of the year, Duke will host North Carolina in the season's third home contest. This rivalry matchup is always a can't-miss on the hardwood but this year's version on the gridiron could be intriguing as lately, these programs have played some compelling games.

This will be meeting 110 between the two programs with UNC holding a 64-41-4 advantage in the series. What's more, the Tar Heels have won the last five meetings.

Last season, UNC prevailed in Chapel Hill 47-45 in double-OT in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season. Two years ago, it was another close game, 38-35, that went the way of the Heels in Durham.

This year, both teams will be breaking in new transfer quarterbacks after seeing their star signal callers from last season depart. This matchup will likely come down to which QB, Duke's Maalik Murphy, or UNC's Max Johnson steps up and has the better day. Regardless, we should expect another close game in this series as three of the last five games between these schools have been decided by three points or fewer.

Duke vs. SMU

On October 26, Duke will host SMU in what could be a trap game. That's because the week prior, the Blue Devils will host ACC favorites and College Football Playoff hopefuls Florida State.

Will the Blue Devils be ready to rebound from whatever happens against the Seminoles and take care of business against an SMU program that has become rather pesky at the Group of 5 level in recent years? Also, we have no idea what the Mustangs will be now that they are in a major conference. That gives this game plenty of intrigue.

This could also be a trap because it comes one week before the Blue Devils make a trip to South Florida to face the Miami Hurricanes. What's more, a week after that, Duke will play at NC State.

That's a rough stretch of games, the roughest of the season and Duke could easily drop all four. That's why taking care of the Mustangs at home is a must if Diaz and Co. hope to have a successful first campaign in Durham.

Duke vs. Virginia Tech

Most believe that Virginia Tech could be a stout squad in 2024. Coming off of a 7-6 season that included a bowl win over Tulane, the Hokies will be looking to take a step forward in the ACC hierarchy this fall.

With QB Kyron Drones back to lead the offense, Va. Tech has a potential star in the making to lead its offense. That combined with what is usually a solid defense in Blacksburg could make this a tough final home game of the season for the Blue Devils.

One thing that will be interesting to watch when this game does roll around is how each team enters the contest. Both teams will be coming off of an open week but Duke will be coming off of the tough four-game stretch against Florida State, SMU, Miami, and NC State while Virginia Tech will have hosted Clemson in its previous game.

Duke may need to win this game to prevent the second half of the season from being a slide. That four-game stretch leading into this tilt is no joke and could take a toll on the Blue Devils. It will be imperative for Duke to find a way to win this contest at home because it is the only home game in November.