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Countdown to the Season: Season Outlook & ACC Predictions

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Football season is fast approaching and the Blue Devils are ready to contend for another Coastal Division crown.  To get you ready for the upcoming season stay tuned to Duke Report as we preview the team and conference as we countdown to the kickoff of the season against Tulane on Thursday, September 3.

Over the last few weeks we have previewed each position for Duke for the upcoming 2015 season.  With just over a week left until the season is officially underway its time to take a look at the season outlook for the Blue Devils, preview the schedule, and take a look at the conference as a whole.

Duke 2015 Season Outlook

2014 results: 9-4 (5-3 ACC); lost to Arizona State 36-31 in Hyundai Sun Bowl

Key losses: QB Anthony Boone, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Issac Blakeney, LT Takoby Cofield, RG Laken Tomlinson, RB Josh Snead, DE Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo, DE Dezmond Johnson, LB David Helton, LB Kelby Brown (Brown was lost for the season due to injury in preseason practice)

Key returning players: RB Shaquille Powell, TE Braxton Deaver (Deaver missed all of 2014 with injury), C Matt Skura, S Jeremy Cash, S DeVon Edwards, CB Breon Borders

New faces:  Several redshirt freshmen seeing their first game action could be big contributors in the 2015 season.  WR Chris Taylor is projected to be the third starting receiver, but fellow redshirt freshman Trevon Lee is expected to compete for time at the same position.  Quaven Ferguson and Edgar Cerenord could both see time at DT as Duke expects to rotate a handful of players along the defensive line.  There are a few true freshmen who could also see the field this fall.  At this time it is unknown who will redshirt, but LB Ben Humphreys, WR TJ Rahming, and CB Jeremy McDuffie have received rave reviews from practice so far.

Non-conference games:  Duke doesn’t have a very difficult non-conference schedule once again this season.  Although, Northwestern is better than their record from last season would indicate.  The matchup with the Wildcats is the key game in the nonconference that could serve as a barometer for where the Blue Devils stand this season.  Duke will open the season September 3rd on the road against Tulane before the home opener against fellow Durham university, NC Central.  After a couple ACC games Duke will travel to West Point for a game against Army to close out the non-conference slate.

Toughest stretch:  The Blue Devils will return from their bye week in late October with three straight tough games.  First will be a trip to Blacksburg where Duke knocked off No. 14 Virginia Tech in 2013.  Duke will return home for a Halloween game against Miami and then open the month of November on the road against rival North Carolina.  Duke lost to all three of these teams last season.  This stretch will probably go a long way to deciding the ACC Coastal race and where Duke will finish.  All three of these games are too close to project right now, but this appears to be the part of the schedule that will determine how successful the 2015 campaign will end up.

Overall season outlook: The good news is that as everything looks now Duke could win every game on the schedule.  Recruiting over the last few seasons has picked up and there is more talent on the roster than their has been in a long time.  The uncertainty for the upcoming season hinges on the fact that Duke has lost some of the stars of the last two seasons, the most memorable stretch the football program has seen in decades.  Boone and Crowder will no longer be connecting for jaw dropping touchdowns and Tomlinson and Cofield aren’t there to anchor the offensive line.  The season will depend on how easily Thomas Sirk can transition to the starting quarterback, how well the group of receivers make up for the loss of Jamison Crowder and Issac Blakeney, and if the defensive front can play consistently.  If all of those things fall into place, the Blue Devils should be right back in the thick of the ACC Coastal Division race.

ACC Predictions:

Coastal Division

Georgia Tech        9-3   6-2

Virginia Tech       9-3    6-2

Duke                      9-3    5-3

North Carolina    7-5    4-4

Miami                    7-5   4-4

Pitt                         6-6    3-5

Virginia                 3-9   2-6

Atlantic Division

 Clemson                11-1    7-1

 Florida St.             10-2     6-2

 Louisville              8-4    5-3

 NC State                 8-4    4-4

Boston College       5-7    2-6

Syracuse                 4-8    1-7

Wake Forest          3-9    1-7

ACC Champion:  Clemson

ACC COY:  Dabo Swinney, Clemson

ACC POY:  Justin Thomas, GT

Check out our other Countdown to the Season previews:

Special Teams

Front Six

Secondary

Running back & Offensive Line

Quarterback, Wide Receiver, & Tight End