On Monday night, Jan. 9, the Georgia Bulldogs and Texas Christian University (TCU) will battle it out to determine the 2023 national college football champions.

While one of those two teams will be champions this year, players and coaches at Duke University are talking about a national championship for the Blue Devils next year.

While it’s highly unlikely Duke will win a national championship in football next January, the fact that the players and coaches are even discussing the possibility with straight faces says a lot about the utterly amazing turnaround of the perennial losers who’ve suddenly become one of the best teams in the country.

In July 2022, Duke, with new coach Mike Elko (who had, incidentally, never been a head coach before), was picked by sportswriters to finish dead last in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division.

Instead, Duke finished the season in third place in the Coastal with 9 wins and 4 losses overall.

Duke capped off the season with a convincing win in the Military Bowl over the University of Central Florida.

That astounding turnaround led by a new coach and a lot of young players under a brand-new system was nothing short of amazing; and, what’s more, two of Duke’s losses were last-minute heartbreakers that could have easily gone Duke’s way and Duke could have very, very easily ended up with an 11-2 season this year.

In an interview regarding next year, Duke’s Sophomore Quarterback  Riley Leonard said he wasn’t satisfied by the 2022-2023 season and he said the team now has its eyes on a national championship.

“I’m kind of a guy that’s never satisfied,” he said in an interview after the Military Bowl win. “So, I look back at the season with nine wins, but I expect 12, 13, 14 – going into a national championship.  So, my eye will be set on next year.”

Elko won the ACC Coach of the Year award. However, like Leonard, Elko is far from satisfied.  He has said the team is committed to improving on this season, which, if that happens, could mean a Duke football team with a chance to play in the ACC Championship game and, with a win there, who knows…

Photo above by Nat LeDonne / Duke Athletics