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ACC Football Kickoff countdown: No. 10

7/8/2013

We’ve got two more weeks until our planes take off for Greensboro, N.C., the site of this year’s ACC Football Kickoff, where members of the media meet with players and coaches for two days of interviews. Over the next 10 days, we’ll be counting down 10 of the most interesting storylines in the ACC this fall.

We start today in Durham, N.C., with No. 10:

No. 10: Can Duke get back to a bowl game? Last year, the Blue Devils made history and returned to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. It was a major milestone for the program under coach David Cutcliffe, who was named the league’s 2012 Coach of the Year. Duke earned its spot in the postseason by beating rival North Carolina for the first time in nine seasons. If Duke is going to continue that success, it is going to have to do it without record-setting receiver Conner Vernon, veteran quarterback Sean Renfree, and three starters in the secondary.

This fall, Duke will be under the leadership of first-year starting quarterback Anthony Boone, who had an excellent spring and has already had some meaningful game experience. Receiver Jamison Crowder is one of the ACC’s more underrated receivers, and the offensive line returns four starters. Duke’s ground game should be better, but if the Blue Devils can’t improve defensively (No. 107 in the country in scoring defense in 2012), odds are they won’t improve much overall. Unlike last year, Florida State and Clemson aren’t on the schedule, and Duke has a favorable nonconference schedule that can help the program get at least halfway to bowl eligibility. In order to take advantage of the schedule, though, Duke has to find a leader in Boone and a way to stop opposing quarterbacks.