There is a lot at stake when the Blue Devils travel to Wake Forest this weekend beyond the fact that Duke hasn't beaten the Demon Deacons in 12 years.
And besides the streak, there are tremendous stakes in this game, a game some fans and analysts have dubbed the most important for the Duke Football program since 1994. The Blue Devils schedule this season hasn't been the most difficult so far, but now that they are in conference play it is a whole different store.
That challenging schedule obviously starts with the Demon Deacons who, like Duke, come into the game 3-1 but with nearly as many questions about this season as the Blue Devils.
Wake, like Duke, is talented on offense and capable of putting up points with talented quarterback Tanner Price and his primary weapon Mike Campanaro. They also have capable running backs in Josh Harris and Deandre Martin.
The running game hasn't taken off mainly because the offensive line has struggled to open up holes. Fortunately for the Deacs, Price's mobility and ability to find Campanaro who is arguably one of the best offensive players in the league makes this offense so dangerous.
It, however, is the Wake defense that is the reason many, including ESPN ACC Blogger Heather Dinich, are predicting a Duke win.
But Duke's defense is still a question mark too. They have had little problem with Memphis, one of the worst teams at the FBS level this year, last week. They handled Florida International after a shaky start in week one and they took care of FCS North Carolina Central.
The Stanford game wasn't a great measuring stick because the Cardinal played on such a short field thanks to the offense showing no ability to move the ball and errors in special teams.
In fact 14 of Stanfords' 50 points came off special teams and Duke offensive miscues. And the Blue Devils actually had the ball longer and had more total yards believe it or not. Granted Stanford is clearly the better team it isn't a great measure of how good or bad the Blue Devil's defense is much like the Florida State game wasn't a good measure for Wake.
Still I expect this to be a high scoring game, as it almost always is when these two teams meet. I expect that the Blue Devils and Deacons will be passing the ball more times than not and that it may come down to the last possession, a field goal, or which ever defense can hold serve.
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree will look to go against a skilled Wake secondary with the receiver tandem of Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder. Defensively look for the Blue Devils to get some pressure on Price and force him to try and make bad decisions.
Needless to say I expect a close game that should be another thrilling chapter in the series.
In some sort of poetic irony I feel like the Blue Devils will finally win a close game on a late Ross Martin field goal. The fact that this game will come down to a kick would normally drive most Blue Devils fans to a roof top ledge, but Martin has been solid.
I like the Duke's defense to get some pressure on Price, but his allusiveness will challenge the Blue Devils has they have struggled with mobile quarterbacks who can break containment.
Offensively I think the Blue Devils will try to test the Wake defensive line that has come under some criticism given their struggles against Army last week. Duke though hasn't had all that much success with the run.
Fans are hoping that the emergence of freshman running back Jela Duncan will mean a steady improvement in the running game. If Duncan can break off a few runs and provide some consistency in that attack then I think Duke has an excellent shot of controlling the clock and winning the game.
If Duke can't run the ball and this game comes down to making big plays I think the edge has to go to Wake unless the Blue Devils defense shows it can step up and stop the types of plays that have cost them this season and in the history of this losing streak.
Wake will not beat themselves and David Cutcliffe knows this as he has rained praise down upon the Deacons program all week.
Cutcliffe isn't really all that worried about the streak and is more concerned with the players on the team currently who have never beaten Wake. He knows the importance of this win for bowl eligibility purposes too, though he isn't talking that much about that.
For him and Duke it is about playing one game, one quarter at a time. If Duke can come out strong against Wake, get some confidence and maintain an edge then the 12 years of misery (four years for the current redshirt seniors) can end Saturday.
But in this series nothing is certain and even though the record book hasn't always been balanced, it really is anyone's game.
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