- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is it Duke. Your time has arrived, gift wrapped with a tidy little blue and white bow.
Run with it.
Do not look back at the carnage that is the Coastal Division. You have an opportunity to rise above the muck, because well, events have conspired to make this your year. Virginia Tech is down. Georgia Tech is down. North Carolina is ineligible. Miami is not really Miami, not anymore.
That leaves you, flip flopped from bottom to top. The view is spectacular, right? Now, you know as well as I do, another year like this may never happen again. Sure, you are bowl eligible but you want so much more, right? A spot in the ACC championship game is waiting for you! Win two more games, and you are in. And that, my friends, would make for one of the most shocking surprises in ACC history.
But first things first. The biggest game this program has played since 1994. Saturday. At Georgia Tech.
"We have to focus on only the things we can control," quarterback Sean Renfree said in a phone interview. "That’s playing as good as we possibly can play, playing as hard as we can play, and staying as focused as we can. If we don’t win this week, we might be out of it, so this week is all that matters. Good teams just focus on one game at a time."
That is an old sporting cliche, but one that universally holds true. This one game could very well make or break championship game chances. But here is the thing, Duke. You have to show us something more than wins over FIU, Memphis and Virginia.
Of the six teams you have beaten, only one has a winning record -- North Carolina. And Renfree tuned in live to see what this weekend's opponent just did to those Tar Heels, laying 68 points on them in the highest-scoring game ever in ACC play.
But here is the point. In four road games this year, you are 1-3 and the average score is 42-19. That includes a 34-27 win over Wake Forest, and losses to Top 25 teams Stanford and Florida State. Yes, those road games were incredibly difficult, but it also includes a 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech, a game in which you built a 20-0 first-quarter lead before never scoring again. I do not need to remind anyone that Virginia Tech is fighting for bowl eligibility.
Now this game Saturday is on the road in Atlanta. Time to prove you have the chops to win on the road with the season on the line.
"It takes all four quarters, and things can go against you early, or they can go really well for you early like they did at Virginia Tech, or things can turn on you," Renfree said. "You have to keep focused. Georgia Tech can score quickly, and we have to find a way to score more points."
The Jackets are hot, having won three of their last four. Vad Lee has been terrific in his last two games. Georgia Tech has won eight straight in the series, and 16 of the last 17. But this is your moment, and this is your chance, Duke.
History may even be on your side.
The last time Duke beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta?
Why, that would be 1994.
1hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information