In case you haven’t been paying attention to the college football world throughout this season, let me catch you up:
The Duke Blue Devils finally turned a corner in their rebuilding project. Led by a high-octane passing attack, an improved running game, and a defense with the ability to create turnovers, Duke has become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Crazy, right? Duke couldn’t play football and now they can! Amazing, the difference it made when David Cutcliffe came in and bought the team actual footballs to practice with, which were so much more beneficial than those deflated basketballs they’d been using during the Ted Roof era.
I’m sure the news of Duke being relevant in the college football world almost made you pass out, so I want you to take a seat for this next sentence. Are you sitting down? Okay, good. Duke is currently in first place in the ACC Coastal division, sitting in a three-way tie with Miami and North Carolina, with Virginia Tech a half game back and Georgia Tech a full game back:
Tonight, the Miami Hurricanes take on the Virginia Tech Hokies, in what might be the most important game so far this season for the Duke Blue Devils. How, you ask? Well, let’s look at the hypothetical scenario:
Miami beats VT, Duke upsets Clemson. This puts Duke a full game up on VT, and leaves them tied atop the rankings with Miami and UNC. At this point, Duke won’t need to rely on any other ACC team to beat any other ACC team for the rest of the season, as their fate will be entirely in their hands. Win out, and they win the Coastal Division.
Why can’t VT win? What is the difference? Well, VT stomped Duke a few weeks ago and, therefore, own the tiebreaker over them. A win would leave VT, Duke, and UNC tied atop the standings, which would be an absolute mess, considering VT owns the tiebreaker over Duke who owns the tiebreaker over UNC who owns the tiebreaker over VT.
There is also another thing to consider. Duke has a very difficult schedule down the stretch, with 12th-ranked Clemson, that unpredictable Georgia Tech team, and a Miami Hurricane team that boasts a strong passing attack, an offensive aspect which has crushed the Blue Devils this season. Meanwhile, the third team in this three-way tie, the North Carolina Tar Heels, play a somewhat easier schedule down the stretch. Of those three teams, the only one with a non-losing record is Maryland, who I’m pretty sure is now starting their towel boy at quarterback after losing every one of their actual quarterbacks to injuries. Okay, they’re actually starting their linebacker under center. He actually played quarterback in high school, but, still, I like North Carolina’s chances in that game. If Duke loses just one game, UNC gains a huge advantage to run the table, as they beat Miami earlier in the year.
If Miami wins tonight, Duke controls their own fate and will make the ACC Championship Game if they win out. If Miami loses, then Duke is tied in the standings with a team that owns a tiebreaker over them.
The season won’t be decided tonight, but it will certainly have a drastic effect on the entirety of the ACC Coastal Division.