ACC title talk 'gratifiying' for Duke
Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC) can take control of the Coastal Division with a win over the Hurricanes (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday in a matchup of teams headed in opposite directions.
The Blue Devils, who went winless four times from 1996-2007 and had two one-win seasons, have won five straight to clinch their first winning season since 1994.
"I'm fortunate enough to see this program just completely take a 180-(degree) flip," said defensive end Kenny Anunike, a sixth-year senior whose final home game comes against the Hurricanes.
"We used to be the bottom of the barrel, and now we're talking about contending once again for the ACC championship," he added. "That's awesome. That's truly gratifying."
The Hurricanes have lost two straight since starting 7-0 and climbing to No. 7 nationally.
Both teams remain alive -- with Virginia Tech -- in the Coastal Division. Duke already owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Hokies, and a win Saturday would be the Blue Devils' second against a ranked opponent -- which hasn't happened since 1971.
The Hurricanes' 10th straight win over Duke would bring them one step closer to a rematch with No. 2 Florida State -- which already wrapped up the Atlantic -- and the ACC title game berth they voluntarily gave up last year in a self-sanctioning move during an NCAA investigation.
"Our seniors have never been 7-2. They've never won a bowl game and haven't been to a bowl game ... because they weren't allowed to be," Miami coach Al Golden said. "So our seniors are doing a good job leading and making sure the guys know there is a lot of football left, a lot to play for."
Duke knows it can't afford to get caught up in daydreaming about the possibilities that lie ahead: The Blue Devils finish the regular season against two sub-.500 instate rivals -- Wake Forest and North Carolina.
By beating Miami, Duke would have a legitimate shot at a division title, the first 10-win season in school history and a crack at the ACC championship.
"Now you're getting into the dream year," coach David Cutcliffe said. "That would be a dream season for these young men."