DUKE PICKED 2ND
Since the turn of the 21st century, Duke being picked at the bottom of ACC football in the preseason stood alongside certainties like death and taxes.
That all changed on Monday.
Coming off winning a school-record 10 games and reaching the ACC Championship Game, Duke was picked second in the ACC Coastal Division in a poll of media attending ACC Football Kickoff press conferences at the Grandover Resort.
The Blue Devils went 10-4 overall and 6-2 in the ACC last season to win the Coastal Division for the first time. They did so after being picked to finish seventh in the seven-team division last summer.
Duke has been picked last, except for being picked next to last in 2007, in the Coastal Division every year since the ACC split into divisions for the 2005 season. Prior to that, Duke was picked last in the entire ACC every year from 2000-2004.
“We are obviously chosen much differently than we have been in the past,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, the ACC Coach of the Year in each of the last two seasons. “That means about as much as it meant a year ago. There really is no value.”
Cutcliffe did acknowledge, though, that seeing Duke picked second in the Coastal Division behind only Miami has to be memorable for his players.
“There’s got to be a sense of accomplishment with that, yes,” Cutcliffe said. “But the thing you want them to understand is if you like the way this tastes, you are going to have to get better. You don’t stay the same.”
The ACC has conducted preseason media polls annually going back to 1976. The only time Duke ever received a first place vote was in 1983 when the Blue Devils garnered two.
This year, Duke received more first-place votes (33) than any other Coastal Division team. Miami, picked to win the Coastal, had 26. North Carolina had 27 first-place votes.
After Miami (614 points) and Duke (597), the rest of the Coastal Division predictions had Virginia Tech third, UNC fourth, Georgia Tech fifth, Pittsburgh sixth and Virginia seventh.
Virginia was the only Coastal Division team that didn’t receive a first-place vote.
Duke posted its first winning season since 1994 last year as it defeated North Carolina, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Virginia in league play.
Losses to eventual national champion Florida State (45-7 in the ACC championship game) and 52-48 to Texas A&M didn’t keep Duke from ending the season ranked No. 23 in the country by the Associated Press.
Cutcliffe and his players have been steadfast this week in their comments that, as good as those accomplishments felt last season, they don’t help the team this season.
“People ask me `How did you make this happen?’” Cutcliffe said. “We didn’t make anything happen. Over a period of time we developed great habits. Great habits allowed our team to be more successful on the field. The only way we’re going to remain a successful program is to improve those great habits. It’s an interesting challenge each year.”
On Sunday, prior to the poll being announced, Duke all-ACC offensive guard Laken Tomlinson said the team would want to be picked to do well because they expect to win the ACC.
“I mean, that's the goal, and even the entire ACC,” Tomlinson said. “That's what we want to do, and that's what we work hard every day for.”