While Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech have dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference’s headlines this season, there’s another team playing well in the ACC that hasn’t garnered as much attention — the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke is 5-2, and while only 1-2 in conference play, the Blue Devils are showing signs of success for a team that was laughable in the 2000s, going winless three times with only 10 total wins between 2000 and 2007 (six double-digit loss seasons in that span). But in 2008, the Blue Devils made a move that has made a clear positive influence in the program — David Cutcliffe was hired as head coach. Since his arrival, Duke has shown steady signs of improvement, earning its first bowl-eligible season since Steve Spurrier was head coach in 1989.
Perhaps the biggest sign of improvement is Duke’s ability to play from behind. In years past, when the Blue Devils would go down on the scoreboard, they were one of those teams that spectators just assumed would just coast to another loss. But on Saturday against Virginia, Duke was down 22-0 in the middle of the second quarter. Duke’s past would have suggested that the Blue Devils were well on their way to a big, conference defeat, but this team is different. Not only did Duke refuse to roll over, the Blue Devils marched to the tune of 35 unanswered points to earn the team’s first conference win of the year.
Now, the team’s focus turns to the last five games of the conference slate — at Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Miami, at Wake Forest and at North Carolina. With two wins, Duke will be bowl eligible for the first time since the Spurrier days, which would begin to put Cutcliffe in a similar light as “The Old Ball Coach,” who is widely considered as the most effective coach in Duke football history.