If there's any fan base in the ACC that should know Duke isn't a football pushover anymore, it's Virginia. The Blue Devils have taken four of the last five in this series, including a 42-17 rout in Durham last year.
Duke is also off to a 4-2 start this season, two wins away from going to a bowl for an unprecedented second straight season.
Read more about the Blue Devils' rise here.
Get a more in-depth read about the 2013 Blue Devils below. Steve Wiseman, Duke beat writer for The Herald-Sun, joined me for this week's "Know Your Enemy."
1. Quarterback Anthony Boone made a surprise return for Duke against Navy and threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the 35-7 rout of the Midshipmen. What does having a healthy Boone back do for this offense?
SW: It gives the Blue Devils an even more potent attack. As capable as Brandon Connette was in relief, Boone won the starting job last spring for a reason. His ability to make big plays via running and throwing makes Duke’s offense run at its peak performance. Connette will still play a role. He is a jack-of-all-trades who can line up at tight end, wide receiver or in the backfield. He has 23 rushing touchdowns in his career. So that adds another wrinkle to David Cutcliffe’s offense.
2. At 4-2, the Blue Devils swept through the non-conference, but have losses to both ACC opponents. How would characterize them to this point of the season?
SW: Duke is a solid offensive team that is prone to mistakes on defense. The Blue Devils are capable of scoring 30 points or more each game. But the defense has been susceptible to big plays against the better opponents on the schedule. Last week against Navy, Duke played its best defensive game of the year because the front seven was able to get a push. If that doesn’t happen against Virginia, the offense will need to score 40 (or more) to win. That’s a lot of pressure.
3. Duke is also two wins away from bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year. How has this helped the image of the football program on campus?
SW: Football’s importance on campus has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two seasons. The win over UNC, which clinched bowl eligibility, last season was at home in front of a sold-out crowd. That carried over to this year. Low attendance remains an issue but that’s the hangover from years and years of football being irrelevant, plus an old, uncomfortable stadium. Basketball still rules here, of course. But Cutcliffe has legitimized football at Duke.
4. The Blue Devils have won four of the last five games in this series. That Duke dominance is rare when compared to its record against other league opponents. Can you sense more of a quiet confidence from the Blue Devils this week stemming from their past success?
SW: That is certainly the case. Duke doesn’t get many opportunities to bring positive experiences into a matchup, but this is one where it gets to. Boone’s only start prior to this season came against the Cavaliers last year. His solid performance that day is a big reason why he had the confidence to take control of the offense this year after Sean Renfree graduated.
5. Duke wins this game if ...
SW: Boone runs the offense smoothly and efficiently, staying away from turnovers. The Blue Devils haven’t been a mistake-prone offense with him under center. (Connette threw four interceptions in the 58-55 loss to Pitttsburgh). So that solid play must continue. It will also be important for Duke to continue running the ball well to allow for offensive balance. If the Blue Devils approach 200 rushing yards, Virginia will be in trouble.
On defense, Duke needs to force turnovers – like the three it benefited from against Navy last week. Also, the explosive plays that have hurt the defense in Duke’s two losses can’t occur with such frequency. A few plays where Virginia gains 30-plus yards can be tolerated. But not a half dozen or so, like Pitt and Georgia Tech managed.