Duke Seniors Get One Last Shot at UNC, Victory Bell

Mike KlineAnalyst INovember 6, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 29:  The North Carolina Tar Heels cheer as they ring the Victory Bell after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 28-20 at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There isn't a single player on Duke's roster that was there the last time the Blue Devils won the Victory Bell.

The rivalry trophy is presented annually to the winner of the Duke-UNC football game.

Historically, the winning team claims the bell after the game and paints its base their school colors.

The last time the bell sported a darker shade of blue was 2003, when then interim coach Ted Roof led the Blue Devils to the win.

Many thought that was the sign that Duke may be turning things around.

Four years later and a lot more loses—including no wins over the Tar Heels—Roof was gone and so were the hopes for a Duke resurgence.

But enter a new coach with a new philosophy, and a new trend...winning.

Thanks to second-year head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke Football is turning over a new leaf and come Saturday, hope to be ringing an old bell.

The Blue Devils enter Saturday's game on a three-game winning streak. They bring in one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC in Thad Lewis, who leads one of the most efficient and effective passing games in the country.

North Carolina though brings in the best defense in the ACC and one of the best in the country.

Will the Duke passing attack be able to match up against the Tar Heels vaunted defense?

The not so simple answer is yes and no. I fully expect North Carolina's defensive front to give the Blue Devils offensive line all kinds of problems.

If Duke's running game has been poor before, they are sure to be non-existent come Saturday.

But I think the trick will be if Lewis and his receivers are quick enough to continue to pick apart the Tar Heels secondary like they have done to their last three opponents. 

I think that they may be able to do just that.

This game will be won or lost by whether the Blue Devils can stop North Carolina’s physical running backs.

The Duke defense had all sorts of problems slowing down the Tar Heel's backs last year. If they can somehow put a dent in their production and avoid giving up big plays they can win this game.

Prediction: Duke-28, North Carolina-17 - The Victory Bell comes back to Durham.

Everybody seems to be leaning toward the Tar Heels on this one. Vegas has them as a 10 point favorite, which I think is a bit high.

It isn't that picking North Carolina is a stupid thing to do, but I feel this game will be close and I think the Blue Devils may just have enough good mojo cooked up to continue their hot streak after years of futility against their archrival.

What is at stake for the Blue Devils? A lot! Duke stands to inch one game closer to bowl eligibility; they need seven wins and currently have five.

The Blue Devils also have an outside shot at the ACC Coastal Division Title and a shot to play in the ACC Championship Game.

Now while the latter may be a bit of a pipe dream, the former is certainly a real possibility if they can beat North Carolina on Saturday.

A loss and the chances of a championship are gone and bowl eligibility gets a lot harder.

Think David Cutcliffe has his team pumped up for this game?

What is at stake for North Carolina? A lot, but still not as much as Duke. The Tar Heels can afford to lose this game and still find a way to be bowl eligible. Their remaining schedule is more win-friendly than Duke's.

But with that in mind, there is no way the North Carolina seniors want to go out with a loss to Duke, having never done so in their previous three seasons.

With a shot at the ACC Championship out of the picture, the Tar Heels would like nothing better than to knock the Blue Devils out of the hunt and keep the Victory Bell baby blue.

That is unless North Carolina coach Butch Davis decides to paint it a darker shade of Columbia blue, seeing as he doesn't seem too fond of the school's traditional colors.

Just look at the uniforms the Tar Heels have been wearing lately for proof.

Come Saturday night we will all know.