Welcome to Duke week. It's going to be an extremely busy week here at BC Interruption, with the NBA Draft, SB Nation Conference Re-Draft results, Ultimate BC Bar Competition and your typical weekly features all on tap this week. We'll also take some time out to preview BC's week 3 opponent -- the Duke Blue Devils.
Let's start by stating the obvious. Recent history has shown that Duke has been bad at playing football. How bad you might ask? Pretty bad. Here's a look at overall performance over the last 10 years for programs in one of the BCS's six AQ conferences:
That is a whole lot of losing, a full .123 percentage points below second place Vanderbilt. To add to Duke football's historical woes, take a look at the number of bowl appearances since 1990 among BCS conference programs:
- 1 appearance -- Duke, Vanderbilt [nothing to see here]
- 4 appearances -- Baylor, Indiana
- 5 appearances -- Rutgers, Connecticut, Kansas, Iowa State, Wake Forest
- 6 appearances -- Washington State
To compare, BC has been to 15 bowl appearances during this time frame, including a bowl game in each of the Eagles' last ten seasons. That's a lot of losing AND a lot of college football postseason futility.
Enter head coach David Cutcliffe, who in three seasons at the helm has gotten the Blue Devils offense humming a bit. The Blue Devils offense has improved its scoring output in each of its last three seasons -- 215 points in 2007, to 240 in 2008; from 240 to 302 in 2009 and from 302 to 303 this past year. As one would expect from the offensive minded Cutcliffe, he's gotten very good production from quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree.
During the Cutcliffe years, the offense hasn't been the problem. It's been the Blue Devils D. Last season the Blue Devils D surrendered 643 yards to the Virginia offense (!), 626 to Alabama, 519 to North Carolina, 500 to Wake Forest and 491 to Virginia Tech. In fact, Duke limited just four opponents to under 400 yards of total offense. One of those four teams just so happens to be BC (that's how bad BC's O was last season). Yes, even Elon gained more total yards than BC.
Duke finished the season ranked in the bottom sixth nationally in nearly every defensive category -- Scoring Defense (109), Rushing Defense (113) and Total Defense (108). Passing Defense squeaked out of the bottom sixth in the country, but just barely at 96.
Despite the struggling defense, Cutcliffe has managed to win 12 games in his first three years down in Durham. That's pretty damn good when you consider it took previous Duke head coaches -- Carl Franks and Ted Roof -- three times as long to pass that win total from 1999-2007 (including three zero win seasons in 2000, 2001 and 2006).
There have been improvements on all sides of the ball and it's clear the Duke program is in a much better place than it has been in a long, long time under Cutcliffe. Duke may be able to improve on last year's 3-9 record, but unless there is significant improvement on defense, six wins and Duke's first bowl-eligible season since 1994 may be out of reach this season.
After this year's matchup in week 3, BC won't face Duke again until the 2015 season. It will be interesting to see if Cutcliffe can build on his success and build an ACC Coastal Division contender at Duke. Either way, this program will probably look very different than it does today as Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils try to buck recent history and start winning with more regularity in the ACC.
Other required reading: Athlon Sports Duke Preview, SB Nation Duke Preview, College Gridiron 365, Pre-Snap Read.