If you want to go with what the general consensus regarding the upcoming ACC Championship game between No. 20 Duke and the nation’s No. 1 team, Florida State, the game is already over and there is nearly a week until kickoff.
Most of the national pundits are so convinced that this game won’t even be a contest that they are already discussing who the Seminoles will be playing in the BCS Championship Game over a month from now. In their minds there is absolutely no need to discuss the ACC Championship game and puny little Duke.
The Blue Devils are only 10-2 with their best victories include beating Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and a convincing win over Miami. They have reeled off 8-straight wins and clinched the outright Coastal Division Title, but still this is Duke and the Coastal Division doesn’t have Clemson or Florida State so they are hardly worth paying attention to.
Even ESPN ACC Blogger Andrea Adelson wrote that the ACC Championship game would be nothing more than ho hum and that the expected blow out would only harm Florida State and the conference in general because the Seminoles were playing Duke and not one of the more “desirable” programs.
While Duke’s fabulous run makes for a good feature story, in the minds of those who talk “serious football,” they are hardly worth mentioning even though they are in a conference championship game.
And while you will likely never hear Florida State offer up and bulletin board material by outright disrespecting the Blue Devils, you can’t help but wonder if even they look at Duke, a team they’ve beaten all 18 times they’ve faced in conference play by an average of 34 points, as mere blip on their radar.
As a long-time follower of Duke Football, I’ve gotten use to the snickers and snide remarks regarding the Blue Devils football program. Even this year I’d hear fans from opposing teams talk as if Duke wouldn’t or had no business beating their team, that was until they did.
This isn’t your father’s Duke Football. This team, this program plays good football. As David Cutcliffe said after the Blue Devils victory over rival North Carolina on Saturday that clinched the division title, they have better players than most think. There is talent here and the program isn’t just a flash in the pan. This is something Cutcliffe and company have been building.
National pundits who dismiss Duke do so because they honestly don’t know anything about the program, but the name and that hasn’t meant much in a very long time. They respect Cutcliffe for what he has done elsewhere and commend him for a job well done at Duke, but they still don’t buy into what the Blue Devils are or can become.
Going into the Championship game I can understand that Duke is going to be an underdog, a heavy underdog. I understand that Florida State has arguably the best team in the country and their best certainly are better on paper than Duke’s best.
Am I expecting a Blue Devil victory? No I’m sad to say that I am not, but the fact is the Blue Devils are in this game. They earned their right to play in the game. They have beaten some good football teams, they were clearly the best team at the end of the day in the Coastal Division. All that means something.
Judging Duke by just its name isn’t fair to the Blue Devil players and coaches who have worked for years to get the program to this point. Ruling the game as being over is the height of disrespect for a program that really should be a flagship for what college athletics should be about.
If you changed the name on their jersey and put Miami, Virginia Tech or even North Carolina, and kept everything else the same I guarantee you that team would get more credit and respect and be given more of a chance to even win the ACC Championship game.
But Florida State isn’t playing one of those teams, they are playing Duke. The Blue Devils don’t care if they are disappointing the rest of the world, they are happy to be there and regardless of what the pundits think their chances are, you can believe that Duke isn’t preparing to roll over and die. They aren’t going to head into the game thinking that the game has already been decided.
They are going into the game believing that they can and will win. You can’t ask for anything more than that, and if you think something is wrong with that then something is wrong with you.
As someone famous once said, “you play to win the game,” and that is the only thing you can definitively say about Duke in this game. They will play to win it.