Earlier today we took a look at Wake Forest’s bowl miss. Here’s a closer look at Duke:
How it happened: The easiest answer is that they didn’t win the close games. Duke lost to Wake by six points, Maryland by five, Boston College by five, North Carolina by five. The reasons behind that can be explained by Duke’s inability to get pressure on quarterbacks and too many turnovers. Duke was 113th in the nation in sacks, and 112th in turnover margin. It was a transition year defensively, as Duke adjusted to a new scheme under first-year coordinator Marion Hobby, and they also had a first-year starting quarterback in Sean Renfree.
What needs to change: Duke needs to recruit better, faster athletes on the defensive line and be more consistent up front. Offensively, the Blue Devils have to take another step forward in establishing the running game, sustain drives, and not turn it over.
Bowl bound in 2011? Duke has reasons for hope in that the defense will be in the same system and the offense return the majority of its proven playmakers. The nonconference schedule is manageable with home games against Richmond, Stanford, and Tulane, and a road trip to FIU. Duke has to play Atlantic Division winner Florida State in its crossover game, but it also has Wake Forest and Boston College, two winnable games. Even with losses to Stanford and Florida State, Duke will be bowl eligible in 2011.