Still trying to get over Saturday's disappointing home loss to Virginia Tech, Duke coach David Cutcliffe couldn't bring himself to watch much of the late game between Florida State and Miami, even though it had critical implications for his Blue Devils.
A Miami win would have made it extremely difficult for Duke to repeat as Coastal Division champions, while a loss would return control of the division to Duke. When the Hurricanes jumped out to a 16-0 lead, Cutcliffe pulled the plug.
"I watched a little bit of it, I wasn't having any fun, I went to bed," Cutcliffe said.
But Cutcliffe woke up at 3 a.m. and checked the score: Florida State 30, Miami 26.
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"I did a little fist pump and went back to bed," he said. "Honestly, I did. I'm not ashamed of that. I was surprised, to be honest with you.
In the space of eight hours, Duke went from on the ropes to back in control. Again. That's where the Blue Devils started Saturday. It's also where they woke up Sunday morning.
The question now is whether the Blue Devils can win their final two games, both at home, Thursday against North Carolina and against Wake Forest in the season's final week, to take advantage of that position. Any slip, and Georgia Tech goes to Charlotte instead.
"The mentality of our team right now is, we lost a couple days ago but we're still in the driver's seat to go to the ACC championship," Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson said. "We still control our fate."
Duke already dropped the ball once, falling at home to the Hokies after taking an early 10-0 lead. It only gets tougher Thursday. Can the Blue Devils bounce back in a compressed week with only a few days to prepare for their biggest rival?
"That's the question," Cutcliffe said. 'We have the ability. There's no question. We're not going to bury ourselves. We're playing a really good football team Thursday. The answer's not going to be available until the game's done. You have to go and do it."
The Tar Heels will have everything on the line, to say the least. A loss to Duke, aside from the rivalry implications having already lost two straight, would put them in the uncomfortable position of needing a win over N.C. State just to go to a bowl game. North Carolina, needless to say, would prefer to avoid that.
As far as Duke's concerned, it wouldn't hurt to put up some style points on national television, either. Since the College Football Playoff committee will pick the ACC representative in the Orange Bowl, the more Duke can do to burnish its resume and profile, the better.
That would help avoid a scenario where Duke wins the Coastal, loses badly to the Seminoles in the title game, gets jumped by Georgia Tech for the Orange, passed over for Notre Dame in Orlando and ends up falling to the Pinstripe or Sun Bowl, if not farther.
All of that is moot if the Blue Devils don't beat North Carolina, so the Blue Devils would be wise to take care of that first. They can't count on Florida State bailing them out this time.
"Though we don't normally cheer for Florida State, we were eager and very hopeful they would ultimately pull out that game," Duke safety Jeremy Cash said. "And they did. It was great for us. Ultimately, it puts us in the driver's seat and we have to finish out the rest of the season with victories."