As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each Tuesday over the summer. SU will continue its 2014 ACC conference schedule when they play Duke on Nov. 8.
BREAKOUT SEASON: To put in perspective how remarkable Duke’s 2013 season was, consider where the Blue Devils were in 2008 before head coach David Cutcliffe arrived. If you thought Syracuse was terrible under Greg Robinson, Duke was even worse, going 10-82 between 2000 and 2007. After steady improvements during each of Cutcliffe’s initial campaigns, 2013 was a breakthrough, with the Blue Devils winning 10 regular season games, and clinching bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994. Duke plowed through Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina along the way, and nearly pulled off an upset against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl before ultimately losing 52-48. Heading into the 2014 season, the question becomes, was this a fluke, or can Duke make another run at a Coastal title?
WHO TO WATCH FOR: The Blue Devils averaged a more than respectable 32.8 points per game last despite erratic quarterback play from QB Anthony Boone. For every positive game that Boone had (274 yards and two touchdowns in a pivotal win against North Carolina), he balanced it with an atrocious performance (7 for 25 for 107 yards and four interceptions against Virginia Tech). The Blue Devils will be relying even more on their senior QB now that backup Brandon Connette transferred to Fresno State to be closer to his mother, who has cancer. Boone finished with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and will likely get a chance to showcase more of his running talents this season. Last year, he finished with 214 yards and five TDs on the ground. Stud receiver Jamison Crowder also returns for his senior year, coming off a season where he netted 108 receptions, 1360 yards and eight touchdowns.
PREDICTION: Just based on its schedule, Duke seems like a lock for a bowl game. The Blue Devils play a cupcake non-conference schedule with games against Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane, and they also avoid Clemson and Florida State (instead playing Syracuse and Wake Forest) in ACC crossover play. But Duke isn’t going to surprise anyone this season, and perhaps a thunderous Carrier Dome crowd can will the Orange to a win. SYRACUSE 31, DUKE 28.