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Ryan Craig

Georgia Tech true test for Duke

Posted October 1, 2008

The Duke Blue Devils are at a place that nobody thought they would be four games into the season - sitting in second place in the Coastal Division of the ACC with an undefeated conference record, and a 3-1 overall record to boot.

Expectations have changed in Durham, however, along with the culture within and surrounding the program. It is now no longer good enough to take your three wins and go home. Blue Devils fans and players alike are eager to see just how good this team can be. Well, they will find out this week when they visit Atlanta to take on Paul Johnson's Yellow Jacket team.

Georgia Tech represents a tough cover for any defense because of the unique offense that Johnson employs, a triple option-spread hybrid that is nearly impossible to replicate in practice. His teams at Georgia Southern, Navy, and now Georgia Tech, have baffled even the best of programs for years (his offense just took out Wake Forest this past weekend when the Midshipmen beat the Deacs in Winston-Salem), and this year's edition will offer Duke the Devils' sternest test yet as to whether or not the team can go from merely terrible to tolerable, or far beyond that.

There is no question that playing, and beating, Navy in Week 3 helped the Blue Devils prepare for their trip to Georgia. But there is also no arguing that the very same game gave Johnson a chance to see how Cutclife and his staff plan on stopping the scheme. Both teams have had a chance to see the other program's hand, but if the chips in the pot were mine, I would put my money on Johnson's offense being able to adjust more easily than Duke's defense.

After all, Johnson is by far the most well-versed in the country in running this particular style of attack, and he has had a bye-week with which to prepare.

Make no mistake, this season is already a success in Durham by the standards set by the previous regime. Coach Cutcliffe, though, doesn't want to hear about anyone being satisfied with three victories.

The Blue Devils are heading into the teeth of their schedule starting this weekend, and the outcome of the game will give players, coaches, boosters, and fans a glimpse at the program's immediate future, and whether that future sees them simply stop their progression at mediocrity, or take it to the next level and compete for a bowl in 2008.

Ryan Craig is the host of Inside the ACC on 99.9 FM The Fan. You can listen to him on the airwaves from 7-9pm, Monday-Friday.

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