Duke-NC State: It Is Time To See What the Devils Have Got

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 7, 2009

DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach David Cutcliffe of the Duke Blue Devils watches the action during the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Wallace Wade Stadium on October 18, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The time has come for Duke Football to show us something.

When the Blue Devils take the field against NC State this coming Saturday, Coach David Cutcliffe and company will be facing a must-win game.

First of all, if Duke wants to keep their already slim bowl chances alive, then a win against a solid conference opponent will be the first of many steps left to come.

But more importantly, if Duke wants to begin to come out of the shadow of every other team in the conference and almost every other team in the nation, then beating the Wolfpack will be a necessity.

Duke has shown that there may be some light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel leading out of oblivion.

Several times in the last couple decades Duke Football has stood on the cusp of falling off the college football map completely.

The only mention that they ever received was when they were on the highlights of superior teams that put up huge numbers against them.

That culture, at least for now appears to be changing. Cutcliffe has worked very hard to change expectations and instill goals for the program.

While it has been a slow and arduous process, progress has been made.

Even ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit mentioned Duke last week on College Game Day as having a chance to upset Virginia Tech.

Even if Herbstreit didn't know the name of the Blue Devil's home field, two years ago that would have been unheard of and it goes to show just how far Duke Football has come.

Against the Hokies, Duke competed with the No. 6 ranked Hokies well into the fourth quarter, playing passionate and solid football before losing by eight points. 

That isn't something the Duke of old has done. Cutcliffe spoke afterwards of not accepting moral victories. Well it is time to start practicing what you preach.

This Saturday's contest in Raleigh provides a prime opportunity for Duke to set itself apart from its past failures.

By winning, Duke establishes it can win a conference game against an opponent that isn't vying for them as the worst in the league.

That isn't something Duke has done since 1994—the last season Duke made a bowl appearance.

The game against the Wolfpack also provides the Blue Devils the opportunity to do something they haven't done in a long time—beat their rivals from Raleigh.

And with the two-division scheduling, it isn't an opportunity that comes around all that often any more.

Make no mistake this is still a rivalry game. The games between the two are typically close and both teams play hard, but State always usually finds a way to pull out the victory.

This year the Pack will not be able to overlook Duke so easily, and I wouldn't expect Coach Tom O'Brien to allow that to happen.

But ultimately if Duke wants to prove they are not longer "Duke", then they must win the game. Close will not cut it.

If Duke wants respect and wants to take the next step, then a win is the only thing that they should accept and expect.

Until the players develop that attitude then Duke will always be Duke. If Blue Devils are able to finally reach that point then they have a chance to be a little bit more.