Duke Beat: Bowl Game in Reach; Hokies Await

A bowl game for the Duke Blue Devils is very much in reach and there is a good possibility that it could come as early as this coming week.

Duke is sitting at 5-1 (2-0 ACC) and is a single win away from reaching the six win mark that delineates bowl eligibility. They are garnering some national attention and respect, having received votes in both the AP and Coaches polls. One more win means, that for the first time since the 1994 season, the Blue Devils will go bowling.

The first challenge on the road to bowl eligible status starts in Blacksburg, with Duke taking on what appears to be a vulnerable Virginia Tech Hokie team coming off two straight losses — and an ugly one at that, against North Carolina this past Saturday.

The Hokies have been the cream of the ACC’s Coastal Division since day one, and make no mistake, they aren’t going to just give up that status after a couple setbacks. And they certainly will be fired up to avoid a third straight loss, and the first to Duke since joining the league.

Still, I do not believe that the current line of 10 to 11 points in favor of Virginia Tech is reasonable, considering how both they and Duke are currently playing. Granted the Blue Devils’ schedule looks comparatively modest when compared to that of the 3-3 Hokies, but Duke has played Stanford, who is a top tier team.

They certainly won’t be afraid of Virginia Tech, even in Lane Stadium. Duke has played them close there before, back in 2008, in a game remembered more for the number of quarterback runs as it was for the final score, which was 14-3, a nail biter for this series.

But as David Cutcliffe has finally built up the program, the odds that at some point the Blue Devils may be able to knock off Virginia Tech have improved. And given how the Hokies and the Blue Devils have played so far this year, the time could be now.

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Does that mean it is a foregone conclusion that it will happen? No, with the spread being 11 points, there are plenty out there that feel that this game could end up a double digit Virginia Tech victory, and history is on their side. But I think it would be unwise for the Virginia Tech faithful to write off Duke. Frank Beamer isn’t, and I’m sure his team isn’t either.

That being said, I don’t think Duke should be favored to win the game. It is still in Lane Stadium, and that is as tough as any place to play in the ACC. But to me 11 points is just too big, given what we know of these two teams.

This game could end up boiling down to confidence, and right now Duke has that, while the Hokies don’t appear to be as sure of themselves. The tables could actually turn in this series and if somehow the Blue Devils come out of Blacksburg at 6-1, the talk will progress to not just a bowl for Duke but which bowl.

Still it isn’t going to come easy. Virginia Tech isn’t going to roll over and say woe is me and fall at Duke’s feet because they’ve managed to win some games this year. Cutcliffe knows this, his team knows this, heck most of the fans who aren’t jumping on the bandwagon they ditched some 50 odd years ago, know this.

“They are a very good football team,” Cutcliffe said at his weekly Sunday teleconference. “They’ve been in this league eight years and played for the championship six of them, enough said.”

But this is a new year, and it is at least reasonable to expect that there could be some new results, or at least the possibility of new results.

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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