In his weekly remarks to the press before the Alabama game this coming Saturday in Durham, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe pointed to the tradition that 'Bama brings to the game as well as the fear among some Blue Devils faithful that the game will not be close.
"They are certainly the most talented team in the country," Cutcliffe remarked, adding, "[Duke] fans are hoping its respectable. And that's completely understandable."
The Crimson Tide comes into the game a 24-point favorite after last week's shellacking of No. 19 Penn State.
How does a head coach prepare his team to face such a seemingly impossible task as defeating the reigning national champions?
"Our focus is to play as well as we can play," he said, but he added a word of caution: "We have to earn the right to play well by preparing well."
"We have pride in our program, pride in our team," Cutcliffe added, "so it is so understandable that people have that fear (of getting blown out) when you're playing a powerhouse."
And, he was asked, what would be his response if Duke could pull off a James Madison-type miracle win?
"Well, they would be in mourning on Sunday if we did that," the coach laughed. "I'd have a hard time getting the team's mind [focused] on Army (Duke's next opponent)."
Coach Cutcliffe knows first hand the expectations surrounding the Alabama program, and he's working to bring those types of expectations to Durham.
The Birmingham native gained his first coaching experience under Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant as a student assistant.
"The expectation of football and the responsibility is far greater than most folks think. I'm from there, but my hats off to the faithful fans."
The Duke coach also brought up the commonality 'Bama and Duke share. "It's very appropriate that Alabama is coming to Wallace Wade Stadium to play. He [Wade] certainly has a statue at Alabama, recognizing the three national championships won.
"You look at his records at Alabama, and then his records here at Duke. It didn't take him long to create a powerhouse here," Cutcliffe said.
He also noted that under coach Nick Saban, the Tide's expectations have returned to the levels started under coach Wade.
"What's most impressive is that they have revived the expectation of the player," Cutcliffe said, "The expectation was to compete for national championships, not some times, but all the time."
For the average Alabama fan, those expectations include an easy win against Duke, but coach Cutcliffe thinks the Blue Devils are capable of pulling off the upset.
"If we play really well," Cutcliffe mused, "I believe we can win this game."
"Whether its an upset or not, I'm looking to play a good football game."
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