2022 Duke Blue Devils Preview

by Matt Fargo

Duke Blue Devils

2021-22 Season Record 3-9 (0-8 ACC Coastal) - 4-8-0 ATS - 6-6-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 6
Defense - 5

Overview

David Cutcliffe put together the greatest stretch in Duke football history as the Blue Devils won six games or more in six of seven seasons between 2012 and 2018. The last two seasons have seen a significant drop off as Duke has gone 5-18 including a 1-17 record in the ACC and have actually had a losing record in the conference in six straight years. Cutcliffe is gone and Duke hired Mike Elko as its 19th head coach to get the program turned around and it will start with defense which he is known for at former stops at Texas A&M and Notre Dame. The Blue Devils closed last season with eight straight losses with the defense allowing a whopping 46.6 ppg and no team can succeed with that. Only 11 starters are back in 2022 and they have one of the worst returning production rankings in the country so it could take some time for any sort of significant improvement in Durham.

Offense

Despite the poor recent results, the Duke offense has increased its production over the last three seasons but scoring went down and that can normally be attributed to not making the plays on third down but the Blue Devils were efficient, ranking No. 45 in that category. The problem was turnovers as they gave it away 21 times which was tied for No. 100 in the country. The offense this season is basically starting over with new players at the key positions but they can build around an experienced offensive line that returns four starters. Duke will turn to Riley Leonard at quarterback and while he saw limited action, he had a standout game against Louisville, going 13-13 showing his accuracy. He loses his top receiver but the next three are back that combined for 1,207 yards. Running back Jordan Moore averaged 5.0 ypc in a backup role and will take over the top spot.

Defense

This is where things really need to improve. The defense was one of the worst in the country last season and one of the worst in program history as Duke was ranked No. 130 in total defense and No. 129 in scoring defense. The defensive line was a mess as there was no pass rush, finishing with only 21 sacks and they could not stop the run, allowing well over 200 ypg. This is a veteran line that needs to get significantly better in both areas. The strength will be in the middle as the linebacking corps brings back a pair of playmaking tacklers that can get to the ball and if the front four can improve, they can help out a pass defense that was atrocious. Duke was No. 123 in passing efficiency defense and the good news is that there is a complete rehaul as a fresh start in a new system can only make it better. The Blue Devils had only 14 takeaways last season and five of those came in one game.

2022 Season Outlook

There were never any real glory years for Duke football as it went to only two bowl games from 1961-2011 but a run of six in seven years showed some promise until the recent fall. Elko has his work cut out and looks to build a good foundation for the future. It has a favorable early schedule but the Blue Devils do not have a bye week until the final week in October which could go either way. They open with a home game against Temple and travel to an equally bad Northwestern team before facing North Carolina A&T at home before travelling to Kansas to close out the nonconference slate. A 4-0 start is unlikely but more that doable. In the ACC, four of the five toughest games are at home and they miss Clemson and NC State from the Atlantic. The O/U win total is set at 3 and that is a very gettable number which could be attained by October so an over will not take much after that. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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