Duke University’s program is a powerhouse. They’ve won three quarters of their games in the last two seasons. They’re headed to the postseason for the third year in a row. Oh, and nobody is paying any attention to them.
Sorry, did we confuse you there for a second? See, we’re not talking about Duke’s basketball team, the perennially successful dynasty that fans have loved to hate for the last couple of decades. This would be Duke’s football team that we’re referring to. We apologize for any confusion.
In all seriousness, we’re trying to solve this mystery. Why doesn’t Duke football get more credit? Why isn’t anybody noticing what the Blue Devils have done over the past few seasons? Why isn’t Head Coach David Cutcliffe talked about in the same breath as Nick Saban and Urban Meyer?
In case you’ve missed it, the man has been working miracles in Durham. Let’s look at the numbers for a minute. Before 2012, the Blue Devils football team had participated in exactly two bowl games since 1960. Two postseason trips in more than 50 years? Even the Cubs have done better than that. Cutcliffe’s regime has already clinched its third bowl trip in a row, which will come in December or January. Read that again: Cutcliffe is on a three-year run that includes more success than the previous half-century of Duke football combined.
How bad has Duke’s program been historically? In the last two decades alone, the Devils put together four winless seasons. Four. We’re guessing even the Raiders are impressed by that accomplishment. In the dozen years preceding Cutcliffe’s arrival at Duke, the program won two or fewer games nine times, including his predecessor’s miserable 4-42 record from 2004-2007. Since Cutcliffe showed up in 2008, he’s never won less than three games in a year.
The Blue Devils are a Top 25 team. In football. Did you even know that? Have you even paid attention? Despite dropping a heartbreaker Saturday afternoon to Virginia Tech, they’re No. 25 in the coaches poll. They’re No. 25 in the AP poll. And, in the only rankings that really count now (the College Football Playoff selection committee’s Top 25), Duke is No. 21. But can you even name one player on the roster?
For instance, Blue Devils senior quarterback Anthony Boone was 18-3 as a starter entering Saturday’s game. The winningest quarterback in Duke football history has now lost just four career games as a starting QB, or, to put it in perspective, the exact same number of defeats as Heisman favorite Marcus Mariota has on his resume.
If Duke wins its final two games (at home against North Carolina and Wake Forest), the Blue Devils will be playing in the ACC title game. That would be the second year in a row Cutcliffe’s team has won its division and taken on the mighty Florida State Seminoles for the league crown. Did you even notice? Last year’s Duke team won 10 games and gave Johnny Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies all they could handle in a thrilling Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The final score was 52-48. Did you see it? And if so, was that the last time you bothered to watch Duke’s football team in action?
Here’s the thing: We’re not saying this to accuse you. We’re guilty, too. This writer has managed to watch plenty of college football all season long without ever bothering to check in on what Cutcliffe’s program was doing in Durham. This writer is guilty, like many others, of making a basketball joke nearly every time he references Duke football, strictly out of habit. This writer was just as ignorant as you probably are of the personnel that Cutcliffe is masterfully employing en route to another mind-blowingly successful season at Duke. The age-old question applies here: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound? Or, in other words: If Duke football starts winning games on a regular basis and the SEC-crazed football world just doesn’t bother to pay attention, did it really happen?
Our resolution: It’s time to change all that. What Duke football has done since 2012 is one of the great stories in sports, and it deserves attention. Just because Cutcliffe is working his magic on the sidelines at a place where basketball has long been king (can you imagine what kind of coverage this turnaround would get at a place like Notre Dame, for instance? Return to Glory times infinity!), that’s no excuse for us to not sit up and take notice of one of the more underrated coaching accomplishments in college football history. So, when Duke plays on national television this Thursday night, we’ll be watching. If the Blue Devils get back into the ACC title game, it will be can’t-miss TV for us. When Boone, Cutcliffe, and company wrap up their season in a well-deserved bowl game, we’re going to be paying attention, like we should have been all along.
It’s time to give Duke football the respect it’s earned. Join us, won’t you?
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