Not often has anyone been able to say that a game in late October is a crucial one for the Duke Blue Devils football team.
It has been about 15 years since the Blue Devils mattered at all, and that was a one-year deal.
David Cutcliffe, in a season and a half, has begun to change the culture at Duke and has at least his players believing at this point that this can be a special year.
The next opportunity to prove that comes this Saturday against Virginia. The Blue Devils are riding a two game ACC winning streak coming into the game and sporting a 4-3 record (2-1 ACC).
Not bad for a team that prior to last year had only won four games in the previous four seasons combined.
The Cavaliers, however, are coming into this game playing probably their best football of the season. Before their lopsided loss last week to Georgia Tech, Virginia had won three games in a row.
They had also put grumblings about Coach Al Groh's job on the back burner. A second consecutive loss to Duke would amplify that again.
Duke is hoping to make it three wins in a row this week, but it is doubtful that the Cavaliers, who lost in Durham last year, are going to just role over on their home field.
Both teams have a lot at stake, namely bowl eligibility. If either teams loses their bowl probability takes a serious nose dive.
The Blue Devils have been here before. Last year in fact.
They were 4-3 coming off a road win against SEC foe Vanderbilt. They won an ugly game sealed with a late turnover. Sounds very familiar to last week's win against Maryland.
This year the Blue Devils are better and are going to have to prove it to keep their chances alive.
Beyond Virginia, Duke's most winnable games are UNC next week and Wake Forest in the final game of the regular season.
In between sits Georgia Tech, thus far the cream of the ACC, and Miami who isn't too shabby themselves—not likely wins at this point.
But even the winnable games are just as easily losses if Duke doesn't play well.
The Blue Devils needs to strike while the iron is hot. And for Cutcliffe and his crew to reach their goals they best go into Charlottesville ready to burn some shirts.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!