When I first started covering Duke for Aerys Sports three March’s ago, I was soley focusing on men’s and women’s basketball and baseball (I know the team is usually bad, but the sport is my first love). I only really covered the football team to have something to write about in the summer/fall months before basketball started.
Football is not a major sport at Duke, despite their facilities, when you consider success. The basketball teams are regularly in the top ten and national title contenders. The soccer teams make the NCAA Tournament and usually go deep into it. The men’s lacrosse team and women’s field hockey team go to the National Championship. Two Duke swimmers won medals at the last Olympics. Even the baseball team had hype with first round pick Marcus Stroman.
However, Coach David Cutcliffe turned the football program around and made his players believe. This earned him ACC Coach of the Year the last two seasons and Cutcliffe was recently named the National Coach of the Year.
Despite the media believing that the 2013 season was going to be another lackluster season for Duke, the Blue Devils have proved EVERYONE (including me) wrong.
Duke is 10-2. 10-2!
One year after being bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, they have their most wins EVER. They beat a ranked team for the first time since 1994 and beat a ranked team on the road for the first time since the 1970′s when they won at Virginia Tech. They went on to beat then-ranked Miami.
The Blue Devils won the Coastal Division after winning eight games in a row to end the regular season. They play in the ACC Championship tonight against the number one team in the country, Florida State, with a chance to really prove the doubters wrong. And the season all started with Duke going 2-2 and 0-2 in the ACC.
Facing the Seminoles will be no easy task, despite playing closer to home (Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte). FSU has quarterback Jameis Winston, who was not charged with rape this week, making him a favorite for the Heisman Trophy. They have the nation’s top offensive line, giving Winston plenty of time.
FSU is not the top team in the country by chance.
The Seminoles have scored at least 37 points in every game (they even scored 80 points versus Idaho). Their only close game came back on September 28th at Boston College, with a score of 48-34. Their scoring defense is first in the country, as they allow just 11 points per game. Their passing defense is also tops in the country. Their total defense is ranked fourth at 271 yards allowed per game.
It could be an uphill battle for the hungry Blue Devils tonight (8pm ET on ABC), but really, the pressure is all on FSU. They are the number one team in the country, the undefeated team. They need to win to play in the BCS National Championship. Duke should be playing for the fun of it because a victory would be so sweet.
In all honesty, who outside of that Duke lockerroom believed this team would be in this spot tonight?