Tonight at Bank of America Stadium, the No. 20 Blue Devils (10-2) will take on No. 1 Florida State (12-0) for the ACC championship and a guaranteed spot in the Orange Bowl.
If FSU wins, of course, it will play either Ohio State or Auburn for the National Championship.
The Blue Devils have their best team since at least 1941 and David Cutcliffe has built a quality program, but they’re 0-for-Florida State lifetime and come into the contest as 30-point underdogs.
Only Boston College, which lost 48-34 at home on Sept. 28, has finished within 27 points of the Seminoles. And FSU will have starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who was cleared of possible rape l charges earlier in the week.
Game-time temperature will be in the upper 40s with a chance of rain.
Duke plays an awesome first quarter but it all goes downhill from there, as the Seminoles roll 45-7.
I never heard anybody predict Duke was going to finish this regular season 10-2 and as ACC Coastal Division football champions.
Now, I knew the Blue Devils were going to be decent this year. Picked them fifth in the division with a 7-5 record after going 6-7 last season that ended in a close, painful loss in the Belk Bowl.
But an eight-game winning streak and the best season in school history since 1941?
But that’s the case as the No. 20 Blue Devils take on consensus No. 1 Florida State (12-0) for the ACC championship tonight at 8 (ABC. Yes, National) in Charlotte.
Mind-boggling, isn’t it?
But the last time the Blue Devils played a game this important was that Rose Bowl in Durham following the 1941 season.
With a win over traditional multiple arch-rival UNC today No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2 ACC) will have its first 10-win season in school history, earning a spot in the ACC Championship game against No. 2 Florida State on Dec. 7 in Charlotte with a shot at the automatic berth in the Orange Bowl.
All of which would make the annual battle for the Victory Bell a big game for the Tar Heels anyway. UNC (6-5, 4-3) earned a bowl berth with its 80-20 rout of Old Dominion last week, and although the tiebreakers allow the Tar Heels no chance to play in Charlotte next weekend they would be able to claim some share of the Coastal Division title for the second straight year with a victory.
The Tar Heels, who had won eight straight in the series until Duke broke the spell with a 33-30 result last year in Durham, are listed as three-point favorites. It’s of course Senior Day for UNC, and star junior tight end Eric Ebron — who has announced he’ll enter the NFL draft — will also be honored.
Regardless of today’s outcome UNC is a heavy favorite to play in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 28; the bowl’s executive director Will Webb said his group is scouting no other ACC games today.
Duke gets the historic victory, winning 27-25 on a late drive, field goal and interception.
Time was when the annual season-ending battle between Duke and UNC was the biggest football game of the year in the Triangle.
And this time, the “Battle of the Blues” for the coveted Victory Bell is back, although it has a little different twist.
This time it’s the Tar Heels’ turn to play spoiler.
No. 24 Duke (9-2, 5-2 ACC) is having its best season since the ACC was formed, and the Blue Devils will play No. 2 Florida State for the conference championship Dec. 7 in Charlotte if they win today.
Duke has won seven straight games, two more than the five-game streak of UNC (6-5, 4-3) since the Tar Heels’ snakebitten and disastrous-looking 1-5 start.
Game time is noon (ESPN2) at Kenan Stadium, which may end up being a hard sellout for the first time for a Duke game in a very long time.
There is one other game in the Triangle today, as N.C. State (3-8, 0-7) hosts Maryland (6-5, 2-5) at 12:30 (WRAL) at Carter-Finley Stadium. It’s the Terps’ final ACC conference football game before their move to the Big Ten next year.
For East Carolina (8-2) it has all been a pretty good dream. The Pirates already have a 55-31 rout at UNC under their belts, and look for the UNC-N.C. State sweep for the first time in school history.
But for N.C. State (3-7) it’s about ending a bad season on a good note. In Dave Doeren’s first season at the helm the Wolfpack is 0-7 in the ACC, on a six-game losing streak, and has to win today to avoid losing to all four FBS opponents in the state in the same season for the first time ever.
And it turns out to be a good day for the Pirates and a tough one for the Wolfpack, as ECU rolls 42-28.
That would have to start today, when NCCU (4-6, 2-4 MEAC) hosts Norfolk State (3-7, 3-3) in the home finale on a warm, sunny Senior Day. Win today and then upset uber arch-rival North Carolina on the road next week, and it’s a pretty good finish for interim coach Dwayne Foster.
NCCU gets it done on a day when its special teams have a field day, winning at home against a Division I team for the first time all season in a 24-13 decision.
Over the past generation it has been common to see UNC and N.C. State zeroing in on bowl eligibility early and N.C. Central chasing a conference title and playoff berths while Duke is locking up yet another losing season.
Not this time.
Duke is the only team of the four that has assured itself of even a decent season, and is guaranteed its best finish since at least 1994 with a bowl bid already banked.
And today Duke will play its biggest game in a very, very long time.
The Blue Devils (7-2, 3-2 ACC) will take on No. 23 Miami (7-2, 3-2) today at 3:30 (ESPNU) at Wallace Wade Stadium, and would get the inside track toward winning the ACC’s Coastal Division title — and a likely spot in the Orange Bowl — with a win.
Everybody else needs to play desperate football. The only other home game has N.C. Central (4-6, 2-4 MEAC) hosting Norfolk State (3-7, 3-3) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium in a game the Eagles have to win to have a chance for a .500 season.
UNC (4-5, 3-3) will try to keep its hopes for a winning season alive when the Tar Heels visit ACC newcomer Pittsburgh (5-4, 2-3) at 12:30 p.m. (WRAL), while N.C. State (3-6, 0-6) will visit Boston College (5-4, 2-3) at the same time (Fox Sports Carolinas) needing to win out for a .500 record and possible bowl spot.
But with the expansion of the ACC to now 14 football teams, meetings between the Durham and Raleigh schools have become few and far between.
The series will resume after a three-year hiatus on a cool, cloudy day in front of a mostly full house, and the two teams have been headed in opposite directions.
Today, Duke breaks open a close game with three TDs in the final 3:31, two of them on interception returns from freshman DeVon Edwards in a 38-20 win.
That silliness ends today.
Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC) which still has a shot at its best season since the ACC was formed, will host N.C. State (3-5, 0-5) today at 4 at Wallace Wade Stadium in a game to be shown on ESPNU.
The matchup is one of two ACC games to be played in the Triangle today, as UNC (2-3, 3-5) will host reeling Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at 12:30 at Kenan Stadium in a game to be shown on WRAL.
N.C. Central (4-5, 2-3 MEAC) will travel to MEAC rival Hampton (3-6, 3-2) at 1 p.m.
N.C. State (3-4, 0-4 ACC) is looking for its first ACC win under first-year coach Dave Doeren, and in fact its first win of any kind since September. UNC (2-5, 1-3) has just snapped a four-game losing streak with a 34-10 win over Boston College seven days ago.
It’s the first time both teams have been below .500 for this one since 2007.
The weather is sunny and mild and perfect, and the Wolfpack is showing off its new 50-yard-line logo with a red map of the state and a wolf’s head covering the Eastern Piedmont.
It’s another hard-fought one but this time the Tar Heels make the big plays on defense, holding on for the 27-19 victory.