Nine years ago, I entered the 1999 season with high expectations. Duke was coming off of a four-win season, brought back many starters, and had new coach Carl Franks, who promised an explosive Airborne attack carefully mastered under Steve Spurrier. I openly fantasized about a 6-5 season and a bowl game in Hawaii. Nothing could bring me down.
The Dude and I drove down I-40 on Opening Day to witness Airborne take off against ECU. It was a crash landing. The Pirates' first-down cannon still rings in my ears, Spencer Romine became Ramen Noodles, and Duke's offense went from Airborne to Stillborne to Airdead. The rest of the Franks era was a disaster, followed by the unspectacular Roof years.
Now Duke Football seems to be upon another threshold. Coach Cut continues to emphasize how his team finishes. He wants stronger fourth quarters and tells stories about the importance of strong finishes. But a look at the schedule makes it clear that if wins are going to happen, they are likely to happen during this season's opening stretch of home games. Cut has built up a lot of good will and enthusiasm, and Saturday night I am expecting to see Wally Wade as crowded as I've ever seen it (excluding when NC State fans pack the place). But how much of that is dependent on a win against James Madison?
Of course I predict victory, but does the health of this program depend on the next month? Dudes, please discuss.