But there is more to the Blue Devils upcoming rivalry game with the Tar Heels than just bragging rights. Duke has much more to play for than the Victory Bell, though that is important. They are playing for more than what many consider the honor of being Florida State’s next whipping boy in the ACC Championship game.
Duke beating North Carolina would be historic for the program. It would mean the first ever 10-win season, the first eight-game winning streak since 1941, also the last time Duke won 9 games. It would also be a potential program defining moment.
The national media, to an extent, has bought into Duke’s little Cinderella story. They have a national ranking, No. 24, and you have seen more Duke Football highlights this season than the combined history of Sports Center.
A victory over North Carolina would be the culmination of a very long journey for David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils, that in many ways is just beginning. Duke won’t be content with a championship appearance, a solid bowl game and then fade away into oblivion. This is the beginning of more for the program.
Cutcliffe after the Miami game said that Duke was not going away. While many see this as a feel good story, they won’t be content with one good year and then back to being the doormat. Cutcliffe is building something. That building starts with taking something first.
Duke has taken the respect that no one has given them. They were picked last in the Coastal Division, and have been the underdog more times than not this season. Yet they have continued to win. They are underdogs again against North Carolina despite having had a better season.
A victory increases national attention, which increases exposure for young recruits and coaches. One of the untold story is that Cutcliffe has continued to build the program despite losing some of his best assistant coaches seemingly year in and year out.
Better players and top notch coaches will start to be attracted to what Duke is doing and in many ways they already are. That is how programs are built and maintained. What Duke has done this year isn’t just lightening in a bottle. This is a team, a program setting itself up for more than just a one or two year run. They will be in bowl games with a great deal more regularity.
So while many will still dismiss this team, this season as just a good story, the truth is this is a good football program now. A victory over North Carolina is more about just a win over a rival, a Victory Bell, or bragging rights, it is about the future. And Duke’s future looks bright.