Late Hits: Is Duke the 2013 version of Wake Forest in 2006?

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 10, 2013 

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    Alabama: Rammer, jammer the Crimson Tide swung the yellow hammer on Saturday night in a 38-17 home win over LSU.

    The road to the BCS title game still has a few notable hurdles, with a trip to No. 7 Auburn on Nov. 30 and possibly No. 8 Missouri in the SEC title game on Dec. 7, but Nick Saban’s group is primed for a fourth title in five years.

    Vanderbilt: The list of firsts continues for James Franklin at Vanderbilt. Saturday’s 34-17 win at Florida was the first in Gainesville for the Commodores since 1945.

    While Texas might covet Saban, Franklin would be a more practical choice. Franklin’s recruiting prowess in the state of Texas would be a dangerous combination.

    N.C. State: And on the other end of the “firsts” spectrum, Saturday’s loss at Duke dropped the Wolfpack to 0-6 in the ACC for the first time since 1959, and it’s the first time since 1984 it has lost to Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina in the same season.

    Oregon: A bright-side analogy for Oregon fans to consider: Maybe the Ducks are the modern-day version of Nebraska under Tom Osborne. It took Osborne a long time to break through for a national title, but when he did, he racked up three in four years.

    Of course, there’s also the chance it might not ever happen for Nike U., especially since the current collection of talent can’t get it done.

• The intangible elements that made Wake Forest so successful during 2006 are there for Duke this season. The Blue Devils are confident and motivated and believe they can win no matter the circumstance.

Duke might not match Wake Forest’s ACC title (or the NFL talent on that roster), but the Blue Devils (3-2 in the ACC) can match Wake Forest’s 6-2 ACC record. Consider the Blue Devils have thrown seven interceptions the past two games and still won, at Virginia Tech and against N.C. State. There’s no telling how good Duke can be when it cuts down on the mistakes.

Miami will play better than it did in a 42-24 home loss Saturday to Virginia Tech (the Canes were still hung over from the Florida State loss the previous week), but it’s still a game Duke can win in Durham. Duke can beat Miami; imagine reading that in 2001 and believing it was a possibility?

• Not that you could tell in a 59-3 win Saturday at Wake Forest, but there’s more pressure on No. 3 Florida State now that No. 2 Oregon has lost. The Seminoles spent the first eight games of the season trying to prove they were one of the two best teams in the country.

The next three games will be just about holding serve rather than trying to impress anyone. With Syracuse and Idaho next on the schedule, that change in dynamic probably won’t manifest itself until the Noles go to Florida on Nov. 30.

• Six major conference teams that spun the coaching carousel last year still are looking for their first conference win. Dave Doeren (N.C. State), Sonny Dykes (Cal), Darrell Hazell (Purdue), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Bret Bielema (Arkansas) and Mike MacIntyre (Colorado) have a combined 0-35 in conference play in their first seasons at their respective schools.

Kentucky was the only team in that group to finish the 2012 season winless in conference play. N.C. State was the only team to finish .500 (4-4).

Ranking the ACC

1. Florida State: Syracuse, Idaho and Florida. Don’t screw it up, Jimbo.

2. Clemson: The Tigers’ path to a Bowl Championship Series bowl got a little easier with Oregon’s loss, but they still need to win out.

T3. Georgia Tech, Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh: Georgia Tech beat Pitt, which beat Duke, which beat Virginia Tech, which beat Miami, which beat Georgia Tech. Confusing, right?

8. UNC: The Tar Heels can add to the confusion with a win Saturday at Pitt.

T9. Boston College and Syracuse: And the third-best team in the Atlantic Division is? We still won’t know until these two meet Nov. 30.

11. Wake Forest: The Deacs’ three quarterbacks finished the Florida State loss with seven completions and six interceptions.

12. Maryland: The Terps are 0-16 after Oct. 13 in three seasons under Randy Edsall.

T13. N.C. State and Virginia: The stat only applies since 2004, but still, two teams have never finished with a winless ACC record in the same season.

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