Can Duke play in another bowl? A game-by-game look at Blue Devils’ football schedule.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, shown here during a Nov. 5, 2016 game against Virginia Tech, has the Blue Devils 3-0 this season despite having seven starting players injured and unavailable.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, shown here during a Nov. 5, 2016 game against Virginia Tech, has the Blue Devils 3-0 this season despite having seven starting players injured and unavailable.

The past two seasons, though struggling in ACC play, Duke used a combined seven non-conference wins to propel it to a pair of bowl appearances.

That formula may not play out so well this season.

While wins over Northwestern and Baylor in each of the last two seasons were impressive, those teams drop off Duke’s schedule this season. In their places are No. 2 Alabama and No. 9 Notre Dame, a pair of powerhouses who were part of the four-team College Football Playoff last season.

Those games will help boost Duke’s football finances. The Alabama game in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic has a multi-million dollar guarantee and Notre Dame’s first visit to Durham in 58 years likely will bring the season’s largest crowd to Wallace Wade Stadium.

As nice as that is, Duke coach David Cutcliffe still has to find a way to reach at least six wins to continue his program’s run of bowl appearances. Having been in a bowl in six of the past seven years, the Blue Devils face a tough schedule in their quest for another postseason game.

Here is an in-depth breakdown of Duke’s 2019 football schedule.

vs. Alabama

When: Aug. 31, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Watch: ABC

Coach: Nick Saban is entering his fourth season at Alabama, where he’s 141-21.

Saban and Cutcliffe have met six times in their head coaching careers. Saban, while at LSU, beat Cutcliffe’s Ole Miss Rebels four of five meetings between 2000-04. In 2010, Saban’s Crimson Tide won 62-13 over Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium.

2018 record: 14-1, 8-0 SEC. The Crimson Tide won the SEC championship last season.

Key returners: QB Tua Tagovailoa (3,966 yards, 43 TDs), WR Jerry Jeudy (68 receptions, 1,315 yards, 14 TDs), DT Raekwon Davis (55 tackles, 1.5 sacks).

Key losses: DL Quinnen Williams (71 tackles, eight sacks).

Concern or optimism? A brutal opening game for Duke, particularly since quarterback Daniel Jones left a year early and became the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Saban has created such a powerful program at Alabama that the Crimson Tide dominates annually. Clemson shocked the college football world by beating Alabama 44-16 in the national championship game. That embarrassing loss has only served as motivation for Saban’s team all of the off-season. Duke could bear the brunt of No. 2 Alabama’s ire.

N.C. A&T

When: Sept 7, 6 p.m.

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: ACC Network Extra

Coach: Sam Washington is entering his second season at NC A&T. He led the Aggies to a MEAC championship last season.

A former assistant under Rod Broadway at NC A&T, Washington’s debut as Aggies head coach resulted in a 28-23 win at East Carolina last September.

2018 record: 10-2, 6-0 MEAC. NC A&T won the Celebration Bowl for the third time in four seasons.

Key returners: RB Jah-Maine Martin (656 yards, 7 TDs), WR Elijah Bell (48 catches, 541 yards), DL Justin Cates (3.5 sacks).

Key losses: QB Lamar Raynard (1,922 passing yards, 20 TDs), LB/DE Darryl Johnson (10.5 sacks)

Concern or optimism? After posting six lopsided wins over N.C. Central in the last seven seasons, Duke opted to add a different MEAC team to its schedule this season. The Aggies proved plenty with their win at ECU last season. Duke should win but expect N.C. A&T, the reigning HBCU national champion, to be a tough out.

at Middle Tennessee

When: Sept 14, 6 p.m.

Where: Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Watch: Facebook

Coach: Rick Stockstill is entering his 14th season at Middle Tennessee. He’s compiled an 87-78 record. The Blue Raiders have posted winning records in six of the past seven seasons, playing in five bowl games during that span.

2018 record: 8-6, 7-1 Conference USA.

Key returners: WR Ty Lee (883 receiving yards, 7 TDs), RB Chaton Mobley (660 rushing yards, four TDs)

Key losses: QB Brent Stockstill (3,544 passing yards, 29 TDs), LB Darius Harris (97 tackles, five sacks).

Concern or optimism? Like Duke, MTSU is a program with a long-established coach that perennially plays in bowl games. The Blue Devils and Blue Raiders have never played. Middle Tennessee played three Power Five opponents last season and lost all three. Duke needs this win to retain hopes of another bowl trip and should be favored to do so.

at Virginia Tech

When: Sept 27, 7 p.m.

Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

Watch: ESPN

Coach: Justin Fuente is entering his fourth season at Virginia Tech. He’s compiled a 25-15 record that includes three wins in three tries over Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils.

2018 record: 6-7, 4-4 ACC

Key returners: WR Damon Hazelton (802 receiving yards, 8 TDs), QB Ryan Willis (2,716 passing yards, 24 TDs), LB Rayshard Ashby (105 tackles).

Key losses: RB Steven Peoples (786 rushing yards, six TDs), DT Ricky Walker (49 tackles).

Concern or optimism? Duke opens its ACC schedule with a prime-time nationally televised game against the Hokies. The Blue Devils own two wins at Lane Stadium this decade but both came in the final days of Frank Beamer’s tenure. Duke hasn’t found a way to beat Fuente’s Hokies yet and it isn’t likely to happen this season.


When: Oct. 5

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: TBA

Coach: Pat Narduzzi is entering his fifth season at Pittsburgh. He’s compiled a 28-24 record, going 4-0 against Duke.

2018 record: 7-7, 6-2 ACC

Key returners: QB Kenny Pickett (1,969 passing yards, 12 TDs), DE Rashad Weaver (6.5 sacks), DB Damar Hamlin (90 tackles).

Key losses: RB Qadree Ollison (1,213 rushing yards, 11 TDs), RB Darrin Hall (1,144 rushing yards, 10 TDs).

Concern or optimism? Upon entering the ACC in 2013, Pitt immediately became Duke’s nemesis. The Blue Devils won the Coastal Division that year but still lost to the Panthers. Pitt is 5-1 against Duke in league play and last lost in Durham in 1965. Maybe the Panthers having to replace two 1,000-yard rushers from last season will change Duke’s luck. Or maybe not.

Georgia Tech

When: Oct. 12

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: TBA

Coach: Geoff Collins is in his first season at Georgia Tech. He was 15-10 at Temple the last two seasons. Though Collins didn’t coach the bowl game, Duke beat Temple 56-27 in the Independence Bowl last December.

2018 record: 7-6, 5-3 ACC

Key returners: RB Jerry Howard (564 rushing yards, 5 TDs), S Tariq Carpenter (55 tackles, two interceptions).

Key losses: QB TaQuon Marshall (971 yards, 11 TDs), RB Qua Searcy (349 yards, 3 TDs), S Malik Rivera (68 tackles, two interceptions).

Concern or optimism? Cutcliffe might be the only ACC coach sad to see Paul Johnson and his option offense gone from Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils posted four wins in the last five seasons over the run-happy Yellow Jackets. Collins is installing a traditional pro-style offense and Georgia Tech figures to struggle with the transition this season. Duke should continue to dominate this series.

at Virginia

When: Oct. 19

Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

Watch: TBA

Coach: Bronco Mendenhall is entering his fourth season at Virginia after a 99-43 run as Brigham Young’s head coach. Counting his 11 seasons at BYU, his teams have played in bowl games 13 of his 14 seasons as a head coach.

2018 record: 8-5, 4-4 ACC

Key returners: QB Bryce Perkins (2,680 passing yards, 25 TDs, 923 rushing yards, nine TDs), WR Hasise Dubois (578 yards, 5 TDs), CB Bryce Hall (62 tackles, two INTs).

Key losses: RB Jordan Ellis (1,026 yards, 10 TDs), WR Olamide Zaccheaus (93 catches, 1,058 yards, nine TDs)

Concern or optimism? Even while struggling in former coach Mike London’s final season in 2015, Virginia beat Duke. The Cavaliers have continued to best the Blue Devils as Mendenhall has transformed the program into a Coastal Division title favorite. Duke’s lost four in a row to Virginia and halting that skid looks difficult this season.

Duke defensive tackle Trevon McSwain (95) leads the celebration on the Victory Bell with teammate and signals “three peat” as Duke defeated UNC 42-35 at Wallace Wade Stadium In Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver com


When: Oct. 26

Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill

Watch: TBA

Coach: Mack Brown is entering the first season of his second tenure at UNC. The College Football Hall of Famer has won 244 games in 30 season as a head coach, going 69-46-1 at UNC from 1988-97.

2018 record: 2-9, 1-7 ACC

Key returners: WR Dazz Newsome (44 catches, 506 yards, two TDs), RB Michael Carter (597 rushing yards, two TDs), RB Antonio Williams (504 rushing yards, five TDs).

Key losses: WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams (42 catches, 689 yards, two TDs), DE Malik Carney (60 tackles, 6.5 sacks).

Concern or optimism? This rivalry has flipped since Mack Brown last coached the Tar Heels. He left having posted eight consecutive wins over Duke. He returns with the Blue Devils having won the last three games and five of their last seven against the Tar Heels. This game is always a toss-up. Give Duke the edge due to its recent success.

Notre Dame

When: Nov. 9

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: ACC Network

Coach: Brian Kelly is entering his 10th season at Notre Dame. The Irish reached the BCS title game following the 2012 season and was selected to last season’s four-team College Football Playoff. Notre Dame is 22-4 over the last two seasons.

2018 record: 12-1

Key returners: QB Ian Book (2,628 passing yards, 19 TDs), WR Chase Claypool (50 catches, 639 yards, 4 TDs), S Jalen Elliott (four INTs).

Key losses: WR Miles Boykin (59 catches, 872 yards, 8 TDs), LB Te’Von Coney (123 tackles, four sacks), DL Jerry Tillery (eight sacks).

Concern or optimism? The second of two games Duke has against playoff teams from last season, Notre Dame visits Durham for the first time since 1961. The Irish passing attack, led by Book, will present the Blue Devils defense with a difficult test. No. 9 Notre Dame’s overall athleticism will be tough for Duke to handle.


When: Nov. 16

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: TBA

Coach: Dino Babers is entering his fourth season at Syracuse. He’s compiled an 18-19 record, but led the Orange to a 10-3 season a year ago. He has never coached against Duke.

2018 record: 10-3, 6-2 ACC

Key returners: RB Moe Neal (869 rushing yards, 5 TDs), WR Sean Riley (756 receiving yards, 3 TDs), CB Andre Cisco (60 tackles, seven INTs).

Key losses: QB Eric Dungey (2,868 passing yards, 18 TDs), WR Jamal Custis (906 receiving yards, 6 TDs).

Concern or optimism? After consecutive 4-8 seasons in Babers’ first two years at Syracuse, the Orange broke through behind a prolific offense (40.2 points per game) last season. Syracuse is breaking in a new starting quarterback, although Tommy DeVito has experience, and returns six starters on offense and eight on defense. The No. 22 Orange hope to challenge No. 1 Clemson again in the ACC Atlantic which figures to mean a Duke loss in this one.

Duke running back Deon Jackson (25) heads into the end zone during a game against Wake Forest at Wallace Wade Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018 in Durham, N.C. News & Observer file photo

Wake Forest

When: Nov. 23

Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem

Watch: TBA

Coach: Dave Clawson is entering his sixth season at Wake Forest. He’s compiled a 28-35 record but has led the Demon Deacons to three consecutive winning seasons that all ended with bowl victories.

2018 record: 7-6, 3-5 ACC

Key returners: RB Cade Carney (1,005 yards, eight TDs), LB Justin Strnad (105 tackles), WR Sage Surratt (581 receiving yards, 4 TDs).

Key losses: WR Greg Dortch (1,078 receiving yards, eight TDs), RB Matt Colburn (759 rushing yards, 5 TDs), DB Cameron Glenn (98 tackles)

Concern or optimism? Though Duke finished last season beating Temple in the Independence Bowl, its regular-season finale against Wake Forest left an embarrassing feeling to carry into the offseason. The Demon Deacons demolished Duke 59-7 at Wallace Wade Stadium as the Blue Devils simply failed to put much care into their effort. Though a year will have passed since, Duke will certainly be fired up to get another chance at Wake this season.


When: Nov. 23

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham

Watch: TBA

Coach: Manny Diaz is entering his first season as Miami’s head coach. Diaz, Miami’s defensive coordinator last season, was headed to Temple as head coach until Mark Richt retired from Miami. After 17 days at Temple last December, Diaz doubled back to take over the Hurricanes.

.2018 record: 7-6, 4-4 ACC

Key returners: WR Jeff Thomas (563 yards, 3 TDs), LB Shaquille Quarterman (82 tackles, 6.0 sacks), LB Michael Pinckney (74 tackles, 3.5 sacks).

Key losses: RB Travis Homer (985 yards, 4 TDs), DL Joe Jackson (nine sacks), DB Jaquan Johnson (92 tackles, two INTs).

Concern or optimism? After beating the Hurricanes just once previously in ACC play, Duke posted an impressive 20-12 road win last season. The Blue Devils’ improved recruiting has given them the athletes to compete with Miami. This is one of those swing games that could determine whether or not Duke plays in a bowl game this season.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.