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2016 University of Louisville college football preview: Duke Blue Devils

The Cards will play the Blue Devils for the first time since 2002.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Blue Devils

2015 Record



Tulsa, NC Central, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Army, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Indiana


Northwestern, Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia

All-time series record: Louisville 1-0

The last time that Louisville faced Duke in football was back in 2002 when the Cards went down to Durham and dominated the Blue Devils in a 40-3 blowout victory. Dave Ragone would lead the way and throw for 258 yards and throw a touchdown pass to tight end Ronnie Ghent early in the first half. Ragone would later find Dontay Spillman for a 38 yard touchdown pass late in the 2nd quarter. Duke's only score would come off a 48 yard field goal by Brent Garber. Louisville would end the day with 192 rush yards to go along with Ragone's 258 yards passing.

Season Recap

Duke started the season at an impressive 6-1 record, with the lone loss coming to Northwestern that at the time was ranked #23. They would get a win over #20 ranked Georgia Tech (though that may be Fool's Gold with Georgia Tech having the disappointing type of season that they did) and won 45-43 against Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in 4 OT's. Then on Halloween against Miami one of the weirdest things happened in the entire college football season. Leading by 4 points towards the end of the game, Duke would kick the ball to Miami, who would then take it back for a touchdown. However, the league would review this and come out and say that the officiating crew missed several calls that would negate the touchdown Miami got. The officiating crew would then be suspended for two weeks. The Blue Devils would not be able to bounce back from that, as they would lose another 3 straight to North Carolina, Pitt, and Virginia. They'd finish out the season with a win against Wake Forest and would play Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl. In the bowl game, Duke again would find itself amidst some controversy over a special teams play. However, this time they'd be on the winning end of it. In overtime and down by a field goal, Indiana would kick a field goal to tie up the game. The kick would go so high that it would go over the top of the goal post. The field goal would be ruled a miss, sparking controversy as to whether it was good or not. Duke would finish out the year with a 4-4 record in the ACC and 8-5 overall.

Coach Resume

David Cutcliffe has been the head coach at Duke since 2008. He was previously the head coach at Ole Miss from 1998-2004. He would be very fortunate in having coached both Peyton and Eli Manning. From 1982-1998 he would spend his time on the Volunteer's coaching staff and from 1993-1998 would be named the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, where Peyton Manning was the starting quarterback towards the latter of those years. Following his time at Tennessee, Cutcliffe would be named the head coach at Ole Miss in 1998, where Eli Manning would fall in to his lap a few years later. Cutcliffe is 92-82 overall as a head coach and 5-4 in bowl games.

Returning Starters

Duke will return 10 starters (5 offense, 5 defense) for the upcoming 2016 season. There is the potential for that number to drop to 9 if quarterback Thomas Sirk doesn't come back from the Achilles injury. T.J. Rahming returns after coming off of a very promising year where he had 571 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on 43 receptions. With Duke losing their leading receiver from a year ago in Max McCaffery, Rahming will be a big focal point for the offense. Jeremy Cash will be a big loss for the secondary, but DeVon Edwards will look to help fill that role. Edwards is the returning team leader in tackles in 2015. Other key returnees on the Blue Devil defense will be defensive tackle A.J. Wolf and safety Alonzo Saxton II.

Returning QB

Thomas Sirk is coming off of a year where he threw for 2,625 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was also the team's leading rusher at 803 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Some bad luck hit Sirk this off-season, though, as he ruptured his Achilles tendon in a February conditioning drill for the second time in his career. This leaves Parker Boehme to take the first-team snaps all off-season. If it comes down to Sirk not being able to play and the Blue Devils having to go with Boehme, it won't be a complete blow to the team as Boehme does have experience under his belt. He played in 10 games last year (seeing a lot of playing time against Virginia). He isn't quite as mobile as Sirk, having rushed for 181 yards, but did rush for 5 touchdowns. He also threw for 579 yards and had two passing touchdowns.

Biggest problem

Duke will be losing a lot of key pieces across the defensive side of the ball. The losses of Dwayne Norman, Carlos Wray, Kyler Brown, and Jeremy Cash will be tough to overcome. Dwayne Norman led the team in tackles last year with 114. Both Carlos Wray and Kyler Brown were stalwarts along the defensive line. In losing Jeremy Cash, the Blue Devils are losing a guy that doesn't come around too often. Even though he was a defensive back, Cash was all over the field. He led the team in sacks (2.5), tackles for loss (18), was second on the team in tackles (101), to go along with 8 quarterback hurries and 4 passes broken up.

Biggest Strength

The offensive line will return three starters this coming fall, which will be vital for either having a quarterback that is coming off of an injury, or one that doesn't have the experience of being a full time starter. There will be some uncertainty in the middle of the line as they will have to replace a two year starting left guard in Lucas Patrick and a starting center in Matt Skura.

4 players to remember

Thomas Sirk: If he returns healthy and is in his normal form, he's a type of quarterback that can beat you through the air and on the ground.

Devon Edwards: Returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns last year, will be looked to as a leader of the team.

T.J. Rahming: Young receiver coming off a year where as a freshman he pulled in 43 catches for 571 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Marquise Price: Rising sophomore defensive end who will be tasked with helping replace missing pieces along the defensive line.

Final Thoughts

Despite going to four straight bowl games, there is going to be a lot of questions surrounding Duke and its team. Duke lost a lot of talent and key players to graduation this past year. David Cutcliffe has had a lot of success at Duke and is probably one of the most underrated coaches in the nation. A lot of the team's success will be dependent upon Thomas Sirk coming back fully healthy and being the dynamic player that he is. Duke is going to be a young team and freshmen will have a chance to get some playing time. That will include members of Duke's most recent recruiting class which is possibly the best in the football program's history. I think in the early stages of the game the Blue Devils will be keeping pace with the Cards and keep the score close. Despite this, I don't imagine Duke keeping it that close for the entirety of the game as the Cards athleticism and play-making will overcome the Blue Devils.