Did you know that Duke football is also in the ACC? You wouldn't have known it from the last few years' Eagles ACC schedules.
To preview this weekend's matchup between the 4-5 Boston College Eagles and the 3-6 Duke Blue Devils, we welcome Patrick from Blue Devil Nation to the blog for Five Good Minutes. We'll answer some questions on BC over on their site, so be sure to check them out.
BC Interruption: It's been four seasons since BC and Duke hooked up on the gridiron, so let's get reacquainted with one another. Give us a bit of color on what it's like to be a Duke football fan. Does the men's basketball team's continued success make up for all the football losses you've had to endure over the years (most losses of a BCS conference team in the last decade)?
Blue Devil Nation: When Coach Cutcliffe arrived, all talk of the losing tradition at Duke has essentially been put behind us. He is the confident, charismatic leader this program needed and his hire has energized the Duke football fan base. Duke is now a competitive BCS football team and is on the verge of consistently competing for a bowl game. The Duke administration, led by new athletic director Dr. Kevin White, has given Coach Cutcliffe full support and the culture around Duke football is gradually changing. After winning four games in 2008 and five games in 2009, Tennessee came calling for Coach Cutcliffe, but he chose to stay at Duke, a rare example of loyalty in modern college football. Given our recent history, we are very lucky to have a man with Coach Cutcliffe's track record and dedication at Duke. Duke football is a program on the rise.
BCI: Speaking of losing, Duke football hasn't been losing at nearly the same clip as they were the last time the Eagles and Blue Devils hooked up. Since our last meeting, David Cutcliffe has replaced Ted Roof and the Duke program has quickly started to win a respectable number of games. What changes has Cutcliffe brought to the program? How is Duke football under Cutcliffe different than Duke football under Ted Roof?
BDN: As I eluded to earlier, Coach Cutcliffe has slowly changed the entire culture of Duke football, and that's probably the most important change. There is energy among the players and in the stands with the belief that Duke is capable of competing and winning on any given Saturday. Recruiting has certainly improved overall, and Duke is making a deliberate effort to redshirt first-year players. Practices are focused and competitive, and the team's conditioning has been a point of particular emphasis from day one. On the field, Coach Cutcliffe and the staff have developed one of the ACC's most prolific passing attacks with good QB play and a deep receiving corps. Playmakers on defense and in the running game are slowly developing, and the overall team speed is visibly improved from previous teams.
BCI: On offense, Duke's sophomore QB Sean Renfree has almost quietly passed for 2,270 yards through the first 9 games, good for third best in conference. What can you tell us about Renfree? If you had to compare his game to a current or former college/NFL QB, who would it be?
BDN: Sean Renfree was ranked as one of the top ten QBs in high school, and was set to go to Georgia Tech until they made a coaching change. Coach Cutcliffe had recruited Sean while he was coaching at Tennessee, and when he took the Duke job, immediately began recruiting Sean to Duke. Coach Cutcliffe's track record with developing quarterbacks like Peyton and Eli Manning had a lot to do with winning Sean's commitment (and has already landed us 2 more talented quarterbacks in Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone). With 4-year starter Thad Lewis (now with the St. Louis Rams) in front of him, Sean was able to redshirt and then spent last season as a backup until he went down with an ACL injury. He is now in his third year in the Duke system, but his first year as a starter. After an impressive start against Elon and Wake Forest, Sean went through a midseason slump, during which he struggled with interceptions and rushed throws. He has not thrown an interception in his last two games, leading Duke to victories over Navy and Virginia. When he's playing well, he has an incredibly accurate arm and has shown he can be an opportunistic runner. Coach Cutcliffe has had Sean study tape of Philip Rivers, as he believes Sean can develop into a similar type of quarterback. Sean is a very cerebral player and I expect he'll be up to the challenge against a stingy Boston College defense.
BCI: While Duke has managed to have some success through the air on offense, they've struggled on defense. Duke's D is giving up a conference worst 6.5 yards per play on D. What has been the cause of the Blue Devils struggles on defense? Who are the standout players on the Duke defense that the Eagles need to be worried about on Saturday?
BDN: After last season, Duke lost defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre, who became the head coach at San Jose State. Duke also lost several key players and defensive leaders to graduation in Vincent Rey, Vince Oghobaase, Ayanga Okpokowuruk, and Leon Wright. With a new coordinator in Marion Hobby and a lot of first and second-year players, there have been a lot of growing pains on defense. Duke has had to adjust schemes to better fit their personnel in an effort to put the best playmakers on the field. In the past two games, the defense has done a better job of forcing turnovers, but has struggled to prevent the big play throughout the season. True freshman linebacker Kelby Brown has earned a starting position alongside senior Abraham Kromah, and that combination has brought some energy to this unit, leading the team in tackles. Up front, Charlie Hatcher is a warrior at nose guard, and redshirt-freshman Sydney Sarmiento has made some big plays. In the secondary, junior safety Matt Daniels has great versatility and ability, while redshirt-freshman cornerback Ross Cockrell is coming off a 2-interception game.
BCI: Last one. Prediction time. Duke hasn't defeated BC since our first meeting in 1927. Is this the year that the Blue Devils get the W against BC? Who ya got? What's the final score?
BDN: I think it will be close, and I think it will be higher scoring than Boston College is used to, which could work in Duke's favor. Duke is pretty banged up after two physical games against Navy and Virginia, so I will be watching the injury report this week. I think the Duke offense will continue to put points on the board, even against a tough Boston College defense. I expect Montel Harris to have a big day, and the team that takes care of the football is likely to win. I will be surprised if it isn't decided in the fourth quarter, so I'll predict Duke 35, BC 34.
BCI: Can't say we care for your prediction, but many thanks for joining us!
For more information about the Duke Blue Devils, be sure to check out Blue Devil Nation.