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Duke Football 2016 Team Preview: Blue Devils Overrated?

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The resurrection of Duke football continues this fall.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

You've read about the Blue Devils offense and defense now it's time to put everything together in a larger picture. How good will Duke be in 2016?

Offense Preview Click Here

Defense Preview Click Here

2015 Record: 8-5

F/+ Rank: 74

S&P Rank: 75

FEI Rank: 73

Wins: Tulane, N.C. Central, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Army, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Indiana

Losses: No. 23 Northwestern, Miami, No. 15 North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia

*****

Duke is going into its 9th season post-Ted Roof, it's simply amazing. Yes, David Cutcliffe has been in Durham since 2008 and is well into a successful reclamation project of the Blue Devils football program.

Cutcliffe spent a million years as an assistant at Tennessee where he was the quarterback coach for some guy named Peyton Manning. When Cutcliffe took the head coaching position at Ole Miss he'd also coach another fellow named Eli Manning.

After he was fired in Oxford, Cutcliffe came to Notre Dame to coach quarterbacks but due to emergency heart surgery had to leave the position before the season began. What could have been?

Low Moment

High Moment

The 2015 Pinstripe Bowl was pretty nuts. Duke and Indiana combined for 1,203 yards and 56 first downs. A 98-yard kickoff touchdown by Shaun Wilson tied the game in the 4th quarter before Indiana regained the lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Duke rallied back on a Thomas Sirk 5-yard touchdown run with just 41 seconds left and then kicked a field goal in the first overtime frame.

Indiana would go on to miss (controversially, it was really close) their field goal to lose. That missed kick gave Duke its first bowl victory since 1961.

2016 Schedule

Home: N.C. Central, Wake Forest, Virginia, Army, Virginia Tech, North Carolina

Away: Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Miami

Thanks to the wonders of conference realignment the Blue Devils get to miss both Clemson and Florida State in the regular season again. This sets up a very friendly home schedule where a 5-1 record could lead to a bowl berth for the 5th straight year.

S&P Projected Rank: 51

There can be no denying that David Cutcliffe has raised the bar at Duke and has received a huge amount of respect for doing so. In fact, a recent CBS Sports ranking of the best college football coaches placed Cutcliffe a lofty 15th nationally ahead of the likes of Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Mark Helfrich.

However, you have to wonder just how much further Cutcliffe can take this ship. During his first season, Duke moved up from 95 to 76 in the F/+ rankings then spent the next 4 seasons somewhere between 79th and 93rd overall. It wasn't until 2013-14 when the Blue Devils finished 41st and 51st  that Cutcliffe was really turning some heads.

Switching back to S&P, Duke finished well below average and is expected to move up 20+ spots in 2016.

Predicted Kickoff Spread: Notre Dame (-13.5)

I don't blame the media for fawning over the job Cutcliffe has done at Duke. It really does deserve a lot of respect. Still, from my perspective you have to separate the rebuilding job at a traditionally awful football school with the ceiling the Blue Devils can reach in 2016.

To put it bluntly, Cutcliffe has done a great job but he's also a beneficiary of watered down modern scheduling. Yes, it's really hard to win at Duke. But he's only beaten 1 ranked team through 8 seasons. Maybe even more enlightening is how the Blue Devils have performed against the best teams in the ACC.

While facing Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, or Miami the Blue Devils are 5-24 overall since Cutcliffe became coach in Durham. That's pretty rough. Duke hasn't played FSU or Clemson in the regular season since 2012 and in the last 4 games against the conference's elite teams they've been outscored 190-41. That's an average loss by the score of nearly 48-10.

My point is that Duke could potentially be a solid team. But we don't need to overrate them just because the Blue Devils have traditionally not been a very good football program.