Duke Beat: Blue Devils On Schedule Despite Doubters

It is easy to write off Duke Football as just being Duke Football, and thus a non-factor in the world of the ACC and national picture; but doing so would be to oversimplifying things a bit.

In Andy Bitter’s ‘Five Thoughts’ piece following Virginia Tech’s loss to Pitt, he indicates that the  Hokies loss does little to change things in the ACC Coastal Division and one of the reasons he gives is that “And Duke, as I have written before, is Duke.”

I will agree with Bitter that Virginia Tech is likely to win the ACC’s Coastal Division, but  I disagree that you can just write off Duke as just being Duke; not anymore.

With all due respect to my Hokie friends, the Blue Devils did something that Virginia Tech failed to do this week; beat an opponent they were supposed to. Duke did so handily while the Hokies were beaten badly by a bad Pitt team.

And I will grant you that Pitt is much better than North Carolina Central, but Virginia Tech is also supposed to be much better than Duke, and Pitt looked God awful in their first two games. But this isn’t about Duke versus Virginia Tech; the Hokies are the better team and I expect when they play Duke that they will win, though we shouldn’t forget the Hokies narrowly escaped Durham last year.

Duke’s win over NCCU seems insignificant: The Eagles are an FCS school from the MEAC Conference and the Blue Devils were expected to win big. But Duke hasn’t been very good about winning the games they are supposed to win over the years.

Just mention the name Richmond and Blue Devil fans roll their eyes and wince in disgust. Three times, twice in the Cutcliffe era, the Spiders have come to Wallace Wade Stadium and walked away with a season opening victory.

For the first time in quite some time, the Blue Devils are exactly where we would expect them to be record-wise. Duke is 2-1 and have won both of the games most expected them to win. They defeated Florida International in week one 46-26 in a game many were expecting to be close and not everyone was convinced Duke would win.

Their 50-13 loss last week to Stanford was bad, but let’s consider that perhaps the Cardinal are a bit better than we all thought they were, especially in wake of their victory over No. 2 USC this weekend.

Duke took care of NCCU in a workman like fashion, posting the largest margin of victory for the Blue Devils in the David Cutcliffe era. And considering the trials Duke Football has had in the past with FCS teams, a decisive victory, even against a weak opponent, is welcome.

I’ve written it countless times so far leading up to this season that Duke is a much improved program. They have more talent, and if they can start getting some of their injured players back (Duke has 15 players currently missing due to injury) they could become a real threat to reach a bowl and ruin someone’s season.

This coming week’s opponent, Memphis, is arguably one of the worst FBS teams in college football, a designation Duke is all too familiar with. It is a game that the Blue Devils could realistically dominate and win comfortably, but it is also a test to see how much progress the program is making.

Duke was supposed to compete against Stanford after their impressive opening season victory, but failed to do so, taking a step backwards in the process. David Cutcliffe called his team complacent after the win.

The Blue Devils should no longer be complacent, but if they do that against Memphis they could be embarrassed by the Tigers. If all goes as planned Duke should move to 3-1 on the season ahead of ACC play, and at that point their chances of making a bowl would be solid.

I’m still not convinced that given the injuries, inconsistencies, and their schedule that Duke will reach the required six wins for bowl eligibility, but you just can’t overlook them anymore.

They are still on schedule to have a nice season by Duke standards, and the win over NCCU, while not Earth-shattering, is at least a positive. And with so many negatives over the years, the Blue Devils and their fans will take what they can get.

The doubters can overlook Duke’s victory as meaningless, but no win in college football is meaningless, and for success starved programs like Duke, every victory is a joyous occasion.

Duke Sports BlogMike Kline is the operator of DukeSportsBlog.com, a site dedicated to coverage and analysis of Duke Football and Basketball from a fan’s perspective. He is also a regular contributor for DukeReport.com. Mike does a monthly podcast with Jim Oliver of Duke Report focusing on Duke Basketball and occasionally football. Mike is a long time Duke football and basketball fan. A former journalist, Mike is now a mild mannered middle school teacher by day and blogger by night. Follow Mike on Twitter at @DukeBlogMKline

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