If you listen closely enough, you can hear Duke students mumbling about football a little more than usual this time of year. While Mike Krzyzewski has brought in Jabari Parker to be the next great Blue Devil on the hardwood, David Cutcliffe is only a few days away from hosting the Miami Hurricanes with the ACC coastal division lead on the line.
Yes, Duke is a basketball school, but their football team is nothing to laugh about anymore. Cutcliffe has done more with less than any coach in recent memory, including taking his team to bowl game last season. 2012 was a great story for Duke football because they were able to play a game after their regular season finale against North Carolina.
But, this season is different. The Devils actually have something to play for in November, which is the exception and not the rule.
Miami has experienced a fall from grace the last two weeks after getting shelled by Florida State and then allowing Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech to drop 42 on them one week later. Starting running back Duke Johnson is sidelined for the rest of the season, but backup Dallas Crawford has been serviceable when his opportunities arise. Quarterback Stephen Morris has had a disappointing season filled with turnovers and miscues.
Duke is coming off of a huge win over North Carolina State where they pulled away in the fourth quarter to make the scoreboard look lopsided. However, this weekend’s game against Miami will be the biggest game that Duke has hosted since the 1989 season.
The Devils tied for the ACC championship that season, led by Steve Spurrier and an innovative offensive game plan. Spurrier’s squad was a typical 1-3 when No. 7 Clemson traveled to Wallace Wade Stadium, but the Tigers found out that there are no gimmes in the ACC. The Devils beat the Tigers 21-17 and launched a magical run that saw them win their final seven regular season games.
Among maybe the biggest game of that season was the game against No. 22 North Carolina State on Nov. 11. Led by All-American Clarkston Hines, the Devils were able to upset the Wolfpack 35-26 to continue their dream season. A week later, they beat rival North Carolina to clinch a share of the ACC championship.
That could have been the best Duke football season ever, defeating two ranked teams, producing an All-American and ACC Player of the Year and of course capturing the conference title. However, this is not your father’s Duke team with the fun-and-gun offense. Rather, defense has been huge for Cutcliffe’s team this year, with the offense being efficient and smart.
Duke controls its own destiny in the race for the coastal division. Win and they are in. For a stadium that has a track around the field and a press box that is used as a medical office during the week, it is very impressive what Cutcliffe has accomplished in Durham. Miami is attached to a runaway train that is headed straight for another mediocre season, while Duke is playing its biggest home game in over 20 years.
This would be program-changing win for the Duke program, and I believe that they will come out and play with an intensity level that will not be matched by the Hurricanes.
Travis Patterson, Writer for ACC Rantsports.com. Football Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @tpat20. https://twitter.com/tpat20