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Duke Blue Devils Finally Get Respect, Move Into Top 25 for First Time Since 1994





 

It was inevitable, at least for anyone who has watched the Duke Blue Devils this season, that Duke would sneak into the Top 25. After beating 24th ranked Miami on Saturday Duke finally got some respect and recognition and broke into the Top 25 for the first time since 1994.

Duke has had a season to remember and filled with firsts, school records and things that haven’t been seen on campus in 19 years. Much of the credit has to go to David Cutcliffe who took over head coaching duties after the 2007 season. He has turned around a Duke program that had gone winless three times from 2000 to 2006. Now, Duke has guaranteed itself its first winning season since 1994, its first back-to-back bowl appearance in school history and there is an air of genuine optimism surrounding the football team for the first time in decades.

There is a very good chance that Duke will finish the regular season with 10 wins but Wake Forest and North Carolina are no pushovers. However, after beating a 14th ranked Virginia Tech and 24th ranked Miami, Duke is capable of winning both those games. They will, of course need to avoid the letdown. They are coming off of the emotional high of beating a ranked opponent at home during their final home game of the season.

The way Cutcliffe has kept his team ready, especially after the euphoria of beating Virginia Tech on its own turf, and it is doubtful the Blue Devils will come out flat. This is not the same Duke team from years ago. Duke is for real and proved that on Saturday with their second win over a ranked opponent, a ranked conference opponent and Duke’s destiny is firmly in their own hands and they have a legitimate shot of continuing to make history.

 

Chris is a Senior Writer as well as the Hiring and Recruiting Manager for Rant Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter and “Like” his page on Facebook.

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Brandon Connette Sets School Record, Lifts Duke Past Miami





 

Brandon Connette entered the season as Duke’s backup quarterback and change of pace back. However, an injury to Anthony Boone’s shoulder allowed Connette to get a few starts under his belt and he responded by showing he can be more than a change of pace quarterback. However, with Boone’s return, Connette was relegated to that role once again.

That doesn’t both the fourth-year junior quarterback though. He seems to relish in getting the ball near the end zone and on Saturday’s 48-30 win over 24th ranked Miami, Connette participated in five touchdowns, four of them on runs. Those four touchdowns were a career-high for him and was the first player since Justin Boyle did it in 2006. They also set the school record for rushing touchdowns with 25, surpassing the record previously held by Tom Davis, a record set in 1945.

Head Coach David Cutcliffe has not hesitated to turn to Connette if he sees Boone struggling and teams can no longer just count on Connette to run the football. Miami found that out when Connette found Shaquille Powell for a 22-yard touchdown pass that cut Miami’s lead to 17-14. But it is with the legs that Connette does the most damage. He won’t break free for huge gains and isn’t dynamic like a Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III but he is a tough kid who just knows how to find the end zone and isn’t afraid of what stands between him and the goal line.

The 2013 season seems to be one of records and firsts for Duke as Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils at eight wins for the first time since 1994 and Duke has a legitimate shot to finish the season at 10-2. Connette has played a huge role in that and has created a two-headed threat with Boone at the quarterback position.

Duke has two more games on the regular season schedule with matchups against Wake Forest and North Carolina over the next two weeks. They won’t be easy wins but Duke has shown by beating two ranked teams in Virginia Tech and Miami that they are for real. For the first time in a long time Duke fans have something to cheer about and Brandon Connette has done everything he can to keep them happy.

 

Chris is a Senior Writer as well as the Hiring and Recruiting Manager for Rant Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter and “Like” his page on Facebook.

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Duke Blue Devils' Head Coach David Cutcliffe Should Win NCAA Coach of the Year Award





 

The Duke Blue Devils won their seventh game of the year on Saturday, guaranteeing them their first winning season since 1994. They also guaranteed themselves a second straight bowl appearance, the first time in school history that the team has gone to back-to-back bowl games. Duke is also in position to win nine games for the first time in school history since 1941. The key factor in Duke’s success has been Coach David Cutcliffe.

There should be no doubt that Cutcliffe is on the short list of candidates for the Coach of the Year Award. That list will likely include Auburn’s Gus Malzahn but given what Cutcliffe has done for a program that was considered one of the worst in the country cannot be overlooked. In six seasons, Cutcliffe has already won more football games than his predecessors won in the 13 seasons before he arrived after the 2007 season.

Cutcliffe has carried over Duke’s success from last year despite losing Sean Renfree at quarterback, all-time leading receiver Conner Vernon and third team All-ACC safety Matt Daniels. This season, Cutcliffe’s team didn’t miss a beat after starting quarterback Anthony Boone went down for three games with a broken collarbone.

The high point of the season so far for Cutcliffe and Duke was the 13-10 victory over 16th ranked Virginia Tech. It was the first time Duke had beaten a ranked opponent since 1994 and the first time since 1981 that Duke had beaten Virginia Tech. It was also the first time Duke had beaten a ranked opponent on the road since 1971 when Duke defeated Stanford.

The season is far from over and Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils have a chance at continuing to make history beginning this week when they take on the Miami Hurricanes, a team that was ranked in the Top 25 prior to their loss against Virginia Tech and at one point was ranked as high as 10th in the nation in early October.

No matter what happens this Saturday, or even the rest of the season, Cutcliffe has earned the right to be the frontrunner for college football’s Coach of the Year Award. His program might not be as sexy as Auburn’s or Baylor’s but Duke has gone from football afterthought to contender for the ACC Coastal Division title. The work done by Cutcliffe can’t be denied and nor can the idea that the Duke football program is just getting started in showing the country what it can do.

Related Posts:

David Cutcliffe has Transformed Duke’s Football Program

 

Chris is a Senior Writer as well as the Hiring and Recruiting Manager for Rant sports. Follow Chris on Twitter and “Like” his page on Facebook.

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James Franklin Set to Return for Missouri Tigers Against Kentucky





 

Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who hasn’t played since he injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter against Georgia, looks like he will be ready to go as the Tigers get ready to take on Kentucky. Missouri has gotten a fairly decent performance from freshman Maty Mauk in three starts but the Tigers will need Franklin if they hope to make a run at the SEC East title in the coming weeks.

Mauk might be coming off of his best performance of the year in a 31-3 win over Tennessee where he rushed for 114 yards and threw for 163 yards and three scores. However, Missouri is a better team with Franklin under center at this moment.

Franklin has been fairly impressive this season, completing 132 passes on 195 attempts for 1577 yards and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions while leading Missouri to six straight wins to start the year. The Tigers’ offense has averaged a little over 45 points per game with Franklin under center but just over 30 points with Mauk at the helm. That isn’t a knock on Mauk as he looks to have a very bright future but the offense hums with Franklin calling the shots.

Head coach Gary Pinkel has already said that this could be the week he gets his starting quarterback back and there were reports that Pinkel used the possibility of Franklin’s return to motivate Mauk to elevate his game last week. While Mauk seemingly did do as the coaching staff asked it won’t save him from being benched as Franklin should be fully healthy on Saturday.

Missouri doesn’t have a quarterback controversy. Instead, they have their best quarterback back healthy while their young backup and future quarterback got valuable experience that should bode well for him and Missouri in the future. Mauk’s time will come but this is Franklin’s team right now.

 

Chris is a Senior Writer as well as the Hiring and Recruiting Manager for Rant sports. Follow Chris on Twitter and “Like” his page on Facebook.

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