Item: Hats off to the steady turnaround of Duke as it looks to secure a spot in the ACC Football championship game.
When we wrote last spring sensing a future ACC rivalry with Duke following the Blue Devils NCAA Lacrosse Championship game victory over SU in Philadelphia, we spotlighted a couple of reasons for the budding competition including the obvious smaller, private school similarity.
Throw in the upcoming first-ever basketball home-and-home appearance by each program on the other’s notable home court with coaching friends Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski forced to compete versus one another, a third straight lacrosse meeting in 2014 this time in the regular season, and Duke’s top ten slot in the NACDA Directors’ Cup, something Orange athletics could aim towards following a school record top 25 finish from the 18 men’s/women’s SU programs.
Now we could perhaps add a football blueprint to duplicate as well. Duke (8-2, 4-2) controls its own destiny to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and face No. 2 Florida State in the conference title game in Charlotte Dec. 7.
It’s no guarantee, with two road games to finish including the finale against eight-mile-away, current longtime rival North Carolina which figures to be a grudge match, but the fact that Duke, picked to finish last pre-season, has recovered from early losses to Georgia Tech and Pitt to win six straight including over Miami and Virginia Tech, is in the position that Orange football dreams of, playing for championships.
It starts with the leadership and recruiting. David Cutcliffe is a loyal-to-the-core coach who specializes in quarterback development, and already had six years of experience of winning in the SEC when he arrived in Durham in 2008. He’s subsequently transformed a program that had only three winning seasons in a quarter century and hadn’t defeated an ACC opponent in three years, to consecutive bowl seasons for the first time and now a (long) shot at the Orange Bowl.
The talent’s been building within the program over Cutcliffe’s six seasons, spotlighted by record-setting quarterback Sean Renfree who departed last spring for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, with Cutcliffe now tutoring the steady improvement of redshirt junior Anthony Boone, the passing QB, and junior Brandon Conette, the Devils running QB in a two player system.
And there’s one more interesting note to this new potential ACC rivalry, Duke is Syracuse’s 2014 crossover football opponent in the Dome.