- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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They noted a renewed focus and togetherness this summer, 17 returning starters and some really close games the Blue Devils lost in 2011 on the way to a 3-9 record. So what are the chances Duke gets to a bowl?
ESPN Insider KC Joyner lists Duke as one of his top five "win-jump teams." What is a win-jump team? It's a program primed to see the largest spike in wins this season. Joyner admits making the case for Duke is the toughest among the five programs he picked. (Also included are USF, Tennessee, UCLA and Ohio State).
But he points to a few reasons he believes the Blue Devils could make it back to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Among them are offensive standouts Sean Renfree and Vernon, on the verge of setting ACC marks for career receptions and receiving yards. Duke also returns four starters on the offensive line and a pretty manageable nonconference schedule outside of Stanford. Plus those close losses to Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech spell a competitive team that will be one year older.
Looking at what Duke has coming back, along with its schedule, it is reasonable to believe the Blue Devils will have more than three wins this season. They should go no worse than 3-1 in nonconference play. If significant progress is made on defense, this team could have a real shot to go bowling again.
Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike and receiver Conner Vernon spoke confidently during ACC media days about their team's ability to make it to a bowl game this season.