Winning streak vaults Duke into top 25
The latest accomplishment for Duke football came shortly before noon on Sunday.
A few hours later, Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe stood before his team, which had just become the No. 25-ranked college football team in the land.
No Duke coach in 19 years had had the privilege of addressing his team under this circumstance.
But Saturday’s 48-30 win over then No. 24 Miami, Duke’s second win over a ranked team this season, was enough to impress the voters, who put Duke in the top 25 for the first time since the 1994 season.
“I addressed it in there with them,” Cutcliffe said shortly after the regular Sunday team meeting and prior to a Sunday night practice. “It had been a long drought. We were one of those schools where, when the article wasn’t even talking about us, they would comment about how many weeks or years since we had been in top 25 poll.
“I told (the players) that’s a week-to-week proposition and you know what that means.”
For the first time since the Blue Devils faced Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl on Jan. 2, 1995, they will take the field at Wake Forest on Saturday (noon, ESPN2) as a ranked team.
Duke (8-2, 4-2 in the ACC) has won six games in a row for the first time since reeling off seven straight wins to start the 1994 season.
Following the win over Miami, Cutcliffe vowed that this improvement “was no accident” and that the Blue Devils “weren’t going anywhere.”
Duke had gone 313 weeks without appearing in the AP poll. With Duke’s entry into the poll, Temple, Southern Methodist and Indiana have gone the longest among teams playing in BCS automatic qualifier conferences without being ranked.
Cutcliffe wanted his players to enjoy the win over Miami and the accomplishment of being ranked.
“Yes they are having fun,” Cutcliffe said. “If you can’t enjoy playing well on Sunday, then something is wrong with you.”
The rest of the week, though, will find the Blue Devils focused on beating Wake Forest. Duke had lost 12 consecutive games to the Demon Deacons before toppling them xx-xx at BB&T Field last season.
In an ACC scheduling quirk, Duke will play at Winston-Salem for a second consecutive season. Even though Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5) is struggling this season and will play without injured star receiver Michael Campanaro (broken collarbone), Cutcliffe doesn’t expect an easy time.
“It’s Duke-Wake,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s that feeling that you know you are in for a grind. Each year we have played this game it has been a war. We know we are in for an intense football game.”
Because eight wins is more than any Duke has had in one season since 1994, dealing with prosperity is a new experience for the Blue Devils.
“I’m not concerned with complacency at all,” Cutcliffe said. “This team will not do that. The thing is getting up tight. Everyone will do that.”
So Duke will follow its same routine in practice of focusing on perfect execution.
While still basking the glow of the win over Miami on Saturday night, Duke left guard Dave Harding said this team knows how to win.
“I think this team is not a fluke,” Harding said. “We come to play and play hard every day. I think this is a winning team.”