Usually when you hear the name Duke, the first thing that comes to mind is basketball.
Under Mike Krzyzewski, aka Coach K, the Blue Devils are one the perennial basketball powers in America. But we are not talking about Duke basketball this time.
Instead, we are talking about Duke’s football team, which once again is having another good season under head coach David Cutcliffe. Believe it or not, the Blue Devils are 7-3 this year and are headed for a sixth bowl game in seven years.
Just wrap your head around that for just a second.
That’s right, Duke is going to a bowl game for the sixth time in seven years.
“David has done an unbelievable job, he really has,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “This is a good football team.”
Duke is a good football program. Yes, I wrote it. It is a good football program.
Since 2012, the Blue Devils have played in five bowl games, including wins in 2015 and 2017. Prior to 2015, Duke had not won a bowl game since 1961. Cutcliffe then led the program to another bowl win last year.
From 2012-’15, Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to four straight bowl appearances, a feat unmatched in the program’s history. Since the start of the 2012 season, Duke is 51-37 overall, a .580-win percentage.
I know, compared to Clemson, those numbers seem average. However, keep in mind, winning at Duke in football is not easy.
“What he has done at Duke is unbelievable,” Swinney said. “The consistency he has established there … the program, the culture, watching their guys play and how they have played, it jumps out at you as far as their belief in what they are doing. That just does not happen.”
Especially at Duke.
Over the years, Duke had become an almost guaranteed win for the Tigers. Since 1977, Clemson is 27-5 against the Blue Devils, including four straight wins.
The last time these two teams met on the gridiron was in 2012, as the Tigers went to Wallace Wade (Outdoor) Stadium and defeated the Blue Devils 56-20. However, since that cold night in Durham, N.C., six years ago, Duke has become one of the more consistent programs in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
“David Cutcliffe is as good of a coach as there is in the country,” Swinney said. “He is a good friend and has been for a long time. He is one of my good friends in this business. I just have so much respect for who he is, but what he has done at Duke is unbelievable.”
Cutcliffe is in his 11th season at Duke, the third longest tenure in the history of the program. In 2013, he led Duke to a Coastal Division Championship, where it lost to eventual national champion Florida State. However, the Blue Devils finished the year with 10 wins, a first in the program’s history.
The Blue Devils have become one of the more consistent programs in the ACC under Cutcliffe. When they visit Death Valley on Saturday, they’re not just showing up to become another guaranteed win for the second-ranked Tigers.
Nope, this is a good football team and it’s a good football program. Duke may not be playing for national championships like Clemson is, but they play for each other and they play for a head coach who they love, respect and adore.
And playing a team like that is always a little dangerous. This isn’t your daddy’s Duke Blue Devils on the gridiron. This is a good football program who is coming to Death Valley to get a win, something the program has not done since 1980.