2012 Record: 6-7 (3-5 in ACC)
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe (21-40 at Duke, 65-69 All-Time)
Four Year Trend: 4.25 wins and 8 losses
Last Bowl Game: 2013 Belk Bowl: lost to Cincinnati 48-34
Stadium: Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC (capacity = 33,941)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 54th out of 69 BCS teams
Most Likely Conference Wins: 9/21 vs Pitt, 10/19 at Virginia, 11/23 at Wake Forest
Swing Games: 9/14 at Georgia Tech, 11/9 vs NC State, 11/30 at UNC
Stats to Fear: gave up 84 plays of 20 or more yards (last in ACC), allowed opponents to convert on 91.30% of red zone trips (last in ACC)
Stat to Cheer: increased ppg from 22.5 in 2011 to 31.5 in 2012
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 87th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Special Teams: 2
Key Defensive Returnees: CB Ross Cockrell (71 tackles), DB Dwayne Norman (60 tackles), LB CJ France (60 tackles), LB David Helton (55 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Anthony Boone (531 yds pass, 52.1% completions, 5 TD, 2 INT), RB Jela Duncan (553 yds rush, 5.07 ypc, 4 TD), RB Josh Snead (496 yds rush, 5.01 ypc), WR Jamison Crowder (76 rec)
David Cutcliff is a coach who gets the most out of his players and last year he returned a ton of experience (according to Phil Steele, Duke entered the 2012 season as the most experienced team in the ACC) and he was able to parlay that into a bowl trip. This year the Blue Devils will drop from the 7th most experience team in the FBS to the 54th.
The biggest loss for the Blue Devils will be QB Sean Renfree. He was a great fit for Cutcliffe's offense and he showed it by completing 67% of his passes. Anthony Boone should take over at QB and he showed some flashes last year throwing for 531 yds, 5 TDs and also running for a couple of TDs. He's going to need to improve his accuracy but he will provide an additional ground threat that Renfree did not. The Blue Devils have a good ground attack with Jela Duncan, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson. None of them are game-breakers but they can all get the job done and with the added run threat of Boone, the run game should be fine this season. In addition to losing Renfree, the Blue Devils also lose leading receiver Conner Vernon (85 rec) and third leading receiver Desmond Scott (66 rec). Jamison Crowder (76 rec, 14.13 ypc, 8 TD) and Issac Blakeney (32 rec) do return but they will need some help.The OL will be a strength of the team as they return 113 career starts and only allowed 19 sacks last season.
The defense was the worst in the league last year in giving up points and was second to worst in giving up yards. The defense will lose it's top two tacklers which will leave the secondary more vulnerable than last season. The Blue Devils played three underclassmen at LB last year so I would look for that unit to be the strength of the defense if there is one.
Last year the Blue Devils took advantage of a weak opening part to the schedule as they jumped out to a 5-1 start. This year the beginning of the schedule is a little tougher with Georgia Tech and Pitt but the Blue Devils still have a chance to start strong as they play North Carolina Central, Memphis, Troy, Navy and Virginia in their first seven games. I think this Duke team will take a slight step back with the changeover of offensive leadership but they will still be in the running for a bowl game and could get there with an upset or two.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews: