Duke has chance to grow in road game against Virginia
Posted October 18, 2013
Updated October 19, 2013
Clemson and Florida State are getting much of the national attention ahead of their Saturday evening showdown (8 p.m., ABC, 620 AM The Buzz), and that's perfectly fine. I've lived on the East Coast since 1988, and there hasn't been a bigger Atlantic Coast Conference game.
But there are other games going on. In fact, the Duke Blue Devils are one of the most intriguing teams in the league, and they have a chance to get one step closer to a bowl game – and continued relevancy as a football program – with a road win over Virginia.
Saturday's game (3:30 p.m., 620 AM The Buzz) is one Duke has lost more often than not in the past, but if David Cutcliffe and his team are going to continue on the path to staying competitive, they need to find a way to win.
If you want to be significant, you have to learn to win on the road. If they can beat the Cavaliers, they're sitting at 5-2 with several winnable games left on the schedule. In other words, they'd likely be a bowl team for the second straight year.
Having Anthony Boone back at quarterback doesn't hurt. In his first game back against Navy, he was dominant, throwing for 295 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-7 win. He reminds me of David Garrard. He's well built, strong, mobile and he throws a beautiful football, and that win over Navy was a quality victory.
Tigers, Seminoles should be fun to watch
Now, about the game everyone, and I mean everyone, is counting down to.
I'm leaning toward the Tigers because of the schedule they've played so far in the season, but I'm also positive Florida State – and its defense in particular – are the best Clemson has faced all season.
Every year, ACC defensive coordinators are getting a bit better at defending Chad Morris' spread attack, and this year is no different. North Carolina State and Boston College both slowed down the Tigers, and neither of those teams has near the talent the Seminoles will bring with them to Death Valley.
The difference in the game will likely be quarterback play, and in that case, I'll take Tajh Boyd's experience. FSU freshman Jameis Winston has been scary good and looks like an NFL player today, but he's also not had to make all of these ridiculous plays under the amount of game pressure he will face Saturday night.
Expect the Tigers to win a close one.
ECU better be prepared to play against Southern Miss
There is a lot of angst in the eastern part of the state because of ECU's 36-33 three-overtime loss to Tulane, and much of the anger is being directed at kicker Warren Harvey.
Harvey missed a field goal in regulation that would have won the game, and he missed another one in the third overtime that opened the door for the Green Wave to kill it. Instead of being angry at the kicker, fans should be more upset with the rest of the Pirates for putting the game in Harvey's hands. The football program shouldn't rest on someone's leg.
ECU had a chance to go on the road and take advantage of back-to-back wins over North Carolina and Middle Tennessee, and the Pirates failed miserably. They went up and down the field between the 20s, and they couldn't get the job done. It's the most frustrating thing a coach can go through, and it's another example of not finishing.
Now, as they get ready for Southern Mississippi, the Pirates are going to have to rebound quickly. Say what you will about Southern Mississippi's 17-game losing streak, but each loss gets them closer to their next win.
When you're playing a team like that, it's like someone pulling a pin to the hand grenade and putting it on the floor. It's going to go off at some point, and ECU better make sure they aren't the team that gets blown up. You better buckle it up, strap it up and bring your best effort.
If I were Ruffin McNeill, I might go look up some of the old film of this series, because Southern Miss has owned the Pirates.