Duke Blue Devils
2010 record: 3-9 overall, 1-7 conference
2010 Bowl Game: N/A
2010 ATS: 7-5
2010 O/U: 6-6
Returning starters: 13 total (7 on offense, 6 on defense)
Over the month of August, our team of writers will be previewing the top teams heading into an exciting 2011 campaign. The college football handicappers at Maddux Sports are also preparing and have season-long packages readily available for clients. Let’s take a trip to Durham, North Carolina and see if the football program has any chance of ending a streak of 16 consecutive losing seasons.
Junior quarterback Sean Renfree enters the season as the only returning quarterback in the ACC who threw for at least 3,000 yards last year. He connected on 61.4 percent of his passes and has the opportunity to become a tremendous player under the watchful eye of head coach David Cutcliffe.
The former college coach for both Eli and Peyton Manning set lofty goals with his arrival on campus, including a prediction of making the school bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. None of that will come to fruition unless the offense improves a scoring offense that ranked 77th nationally in 2010.
Renfree will not take every snap under center this season, as sophomore Brandon Connette will get an opportunity to showcase his dual-threat ability. He rank for a team-high eight touchdowns last year and makes preparation for opposing defenses tougher.
In the backfield, five running backs will fight for playing time and the chance to become the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher in eight seasons. Duke managed to gain just 110 yards a game on the ground, which ranked 104th nationally.
Fans inside Wallace Wade Stadium will likely want to see the team air it out, as the offense possesses arguably the best set of receivers in the conference. Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon have been given the nickname “V-boys” and their 128 combined catches are the most for any active duo in the ACC.
This unit spent a lot of time on the football field last year and allowed an eye-popping 35.4 points a game. The rushing defense was non-existent in allowing teams to rush for 208.3 yards a contest and it’s not likely to improve.
Six redshirt freshman are expected to rotation through the line and that’s a worrisome thought for co-defensive coordinators Jim Collins and Jim Knowles. It’s even a greater concern when the plan is to keep a 4-2-5 defensive alignment that the coaching staff settled on to close out 2010.
Duke’s strong secondary may never get tested due to the numbers referenced above, but has three starters returning to the field. Senior safety Matt Daniels is a playmaker and ranked sixth in the ACC with 93 tackles, while also nothing two fumble recoveries.
Will Snyderwine has set the coaching staff’s mind at ease when setting up for a field goal, hitting 21-of-24 attempts during the 2010 campaign. He’s been named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List to start the season.
Senior Alex King returns to handle punting duties for a second consecutive year, punting 55 times for 2,262 yards (41.13 average).
The kickoff and punt return teams are average at best and will have different combinations on the field over the course of the season.
Against the Spread
Cutcliffe has led the program to a combined 12-24 SU record in his first three seasons, but he’s done his job in terms of covering the spread, coming into the 2011 season with a 16-12-4 ATS mark.
Duke has always stepped up to give an honest effort in its rivalry game with North Carolina, covering the number in four of the last five meetings.
It could be a long day for the Blue Devils in hosting the Yellow Jackets on Nov. 19, failing to cover the last five meetings and facing last year’s No. 1 rushing attack.