Coach David Cutcliffe, one of the great personalities in college football, is now entering his fourth year at the helm. In his first year, he won four games, tying the school’s best record since 1994. In 2009, he came within a Wake Forest win of leading Duke to its first bowl game since 1995.* Last year, Duke had a slight dip to 3-9, but four of those losses were by six points or less.
*A loss in the Hall of Fame Bowl to Wisconsin. The last time Duke won a bowl game was in 1961, a 7-6 win over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.
This year, I think Cutty is ready to finally get over the hump. And I don’t just mean the Bowl Game hump. I think he’s ready to win a national title.
Let’s take it game by game.
Sep. 3 – Home vs. Richmond – Win
Total gimme. This is the first game we’ll get to see 6’5″ Sean Renfree, the redshirt junior quarterback who was also Cutcliffe’s first signee at Duke. He was solid as a starter last year, throwing for over 3,000 yards and a 61.4% completion rate. He did throw 17 picks, but only two of those came in the last five games. That kind of improvement can only have continued through the offseason, and he could quite literally be the best quarterback in the ACC this year.
This is the awesomest of many awesome parts of Cutcliffe’s reign- with a focus on offense, every game will be exciting. Richmond doesn’t stand a chance in this one.
Sep. 10 – Home vs. #7 Stanford – Loss
This one will start like everyone thinks, with the highly-ranked Cardinal jumping out to a huge lead. I’m thinking it’ll be something like 24-3 at the half, and many of the Dukies will be filtering out of the stadium in disgust.
But guess what, gang? Stanford didn’t count on Desmond Scott. A junior, the diminutive Scott rushed for 530 yards and caught 34 passes last season, and also averaged more than 20 yards on kickoff returns. The offense will have trouble finding its footing before the intermission, but after that, it’s time for the Scott show. He’ll run roughshod over the stodgy Northern Cal academics, scoring three touchdowns and bringing Duke to within 31-33 with 50 seconds left. The other Duke touchdown will be scored by speedy sophomore tailback Josh Snead on a 72-yard jaunt. Renfree will lead a valiant drive at the end, and Will Snyderwine, the walk-on kicker who nailed 21 of 24 field goals (8 of 10 from beyond 40) and all 32 extra points last year, will have a 51-yarder to win it.
His kick will look beautiful off the foot, but it’ll hit the cross bar, bounce straight up, hit the cross bar again, rest there for a second, and then fall forward. This will be Snyderwine’s only missed field goal, and Duke’s only loss of the year.
Sep. 17 – Away vs. Boston College – Win
After this game, people will start to understand that the Stanford game was no fluke. The Killer V’s – receivers Connor Vernon (73 catches, 973 yards last season) and Donovan Varner (60 catches, 736 yards), both from the same high school in Miami- will each amass 200 receiving yards as Duke outscores BC in the second half 31-10 for a 41-27 win.
Brandon Braxton, the third receiver, will gain 80 yards on 7 catches, and 6’4″ junior college transfer Cooper Helfet will grab 10 passes for 91 yards at tight end.
Sep. 24 – Home vs. Tulane – Win
Statement game for the defense, as Duke wins 56-0. Using their typical 4-2-5 alignment, which the coaches switched to last season after they couldn’t find enough reliable linebackers, the incredible Duke d-backs will each nab an interception. That’s one for senior Matt Daniels, the team’s best defender who finished sixth in tackles in the ACC last season, one for senior Lee Butler, one for junior Walt Canty, one for sophomore August Campbell, and one for sophomore Ross Cockrell, who led Duke with three picks last year and was this spring’s ‘most improved player.’ The shortest among that group is Butler, at 5’11”, meaning they won’t face a huge height deficit against many teams this year.
Oct. 1 – Away vs. Florida International – Win
A first half grind will see Duke trailing 7-3, but the strength of the offensive line will triumph in the second half as Duke prevails on the road 24-6. Each member of the line will be playing in at least their third season at Duke. Kyle Hill, at 6’6″, 290, is the best of the bunch, and will start for his fourth straight season. Brian Moore is a third-year starter who will move to center, Perry Simmons and David Harding both started last year, and sophomore John Coleman will be the only new starter of the group. Laken Tomlinson (6’3″, 315 lbs) and Takoby Cofield (6’4″, 295) are redshirt freshmen who could earn a starting job come injury or complacency.
Oct. 15 – Home vs. #6 Florida State – Win
The best game of the season. Duke will jump out to an early lead after our best linebacker, Kelby Brown, grabs an interception in the flat and returns it for a touchdown. Brown was third in ACC defensive rookie of the year voting last year after making 63 tackles, but offseason knee surgery has made his return for the opener questionable. But he’ll be ready for FSU, and good thing, because Duke’s 17-7 halftime lead won’t last long. The Noles will come out gunning in the third quarter, and after a late field goal in the 4th, they’ll have taken a 27-24 lead. Instead of squib kicking with 56 seconds left on the clock, Jimbo Fisher will choose to boot it deep, and that will be his fatal mistake.
Taking the ball at the 5, sophomore Juwan Thompson will weave in and out of traffic, finally finding daylight on the left side and taking it all the way to the house. Duke wins 31-27.
Oct. 22 – Home vs. Wake Forest
2000 – 28-26, Wake
2001 – 42-35, Wake
2002 – 36-10, Wake
2003 – 42-13, Wake
2004 – 24-22, Wake
2005 – 44-6, Wake
2006 – 14-13, Wake
2007 – 41-36, Wake
2008 – 33-30 Wake, OT
2009 – 45-34, Wake
2010 – 54-48, Wake
Wake Forest is way too fucking terrible to have beaten us 11 years in a row. And if you take away the blowouts, their average margin of victory was 4.6 points. We are due for some massive vengeance.
2011 – 84-2, Duke.
Oct. 29 – Home vs. #13 Virginia Tech
Nose tackle Charlie Hatcher (6’3″, 300) will dog the Hokies all day stuffing their running game and clogging every hole. He’s joined on the defensive line by sophomores Sydney Sarmiento and Justin Foxx, and junior Kenny Anunike. They’ll be pressed all year by six redshirt freshmen, and the overwhelming speed and strength will force Tech into the air, where they’ll be met by the unforgiving presence of Matt Daniels. 24-13, Duke.
Nov. 5 – Away vs. Miami
By this point, the only eligible quarterback Miami will have left is Chaim Shapiro, Nevin Shapiro’s nephew. He’ll he sacked six times by Anunike, and Duke will win in a romp.
Nov. 12 – Away vs. Virginia
They’ll be too frightened to play us by this point in the season. Forfeit. The entire team will go to a rooftop Dave Matthews concert instead.
Nov. 19 – Home vs. Georgia Tech
As we know, Tech only runs one play: the option. They’ll score their only touchdown when they accidentally call a pass play due to a communication mix-up with the sideline. Duke’s offense will struggle, but they’ll keep GT pinned courtesy of walk-on punter Alex King, who averaged over 40 yards per kick and had 21 punts downed inside the 20 compared to only six that breached the end zone. He’ll assault the coffin corner until Tech is pinned so deep that they take a safety and later have their own punt blocked. That’ll be the difference. 18-12.
Nov. 26 – Away vs. NORTH CAROLINA, WIN
With ERWIN CUP points on the line, and the Victory Bell in the shadows, Duke will roar out to a huge lead and never look back. Cutty has never beaten the Heels, and Duke has only triumphed once, in 2003, since the millennium turned. But a week before this game, new Carolina head coach Everett Withers will have been discovered making steroid milkshakes, giving most of them to players, and selling the rest at inflated prices to agents and boosters in order to pay the incoming class of recruits. This will be a victory for the honest common man. 42-10.
ACC Championship – Neutral vs. N.C. State
FSU won’t be able to recover after their early season loss, and State will take their title with a 5-3 record. But they won’t come close to handling Renfree and the Killer Vs. 450 yards passing, plus 3 touchdowns each for Vernon & Warner. For the first time in school football history, Duke will be able to unleash the killer ‘start the tractors’ chant as time winds down. 55-6.
Duke 43, Northwestern 7