Duke visits Hokies looking to become bowl eligible

Duke needs just one win in its final six games to qualify for

its first bowl berth since 1994. Getting there probably won’t be as

simple as it sounds.

The Blue Devils are a combined 1-39 against their remaining six

opponents since the Atlantic Coast Conference expanded in 2004 –

including an 0-8 mark against this week’s opponent, Virginia


Still, only once in the past 17 years has Duke even been this

close to bowl eligibility. There’s no shielding the players from

those bowl possibilities – so coach David Cutcliffe doesn’t mind if

they savor the situation a little.

”I told my wife, `I don’t want to spoil a good party,”’

Cutcliffe said Tuesday. ”That’s not the only reason you’re playing

the game, but that’s just human nature. How are you going to fool


”They’re starving. Why wouldn’t they feel that way? To ruin

their party? I’m not going to do that. But I don’t want to hear a

bunch about it in the locker room before the ball game. Better

start thinking about what you’ve got to do to win a game,


These Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0) are off to their best start since

the 1994 team opened with seven straight wins on its way to the

school’s most recent bowl game. Only once since then – a 5-7 finish

in 2009 – have they won this many games.

Along with that success has come a little respect from the poll

voters – Duke received three poll points in this week’s AP Top 25 –

but not from the oddsmakers. The Hokies (3-3, 1-1) are 10-point


”People still see us as an underdog and trying to see if we

really are who we are, depending on who we play,” running back

Juwan Thompson said.

Part of the reason for Duke’s success has been a manageable

schedule. Four of the wins have come against Bowl Subdivision teams

that are a combined 7-16. None has a winning record and Wake Forest

(3-3) is the only one at .500.

Now things are about to get tougher: Three of the next four

opponents – Florida State, Clemson and the Hokies – have appeared

in the Top 25 this season.

Nobody on this team knows what it feels like to beat any of the

final six opponents. Duke’s only post-expansion win against any of

them came in 2004 against Clemson.

One reason for optimism: under Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils have

kept it close against Virginia Tech. Three of his four meetings

were decided by eight or fewer points, including last year’s 14-10


These Blue Devils already ended one lengthy losing streak this

year, beating Wake Forest for the first time since 1999. The Hokies

want this streak to continue.

”Since I’ve been here, we’ve had close games with them, so

we’ve known they’re a talented group,” Hokies cornerback Antone

Exum said. ”It was just, when were they going to put it all

together? And it seems like maybe this is that year for them. They

had a pretty successful start. Hopefully, we can tame that a little


The Duke-Virginia Tech game usually matches one Coastal

Division-leading team against another riding a long losing streak,

and so does this one. But this time, the roles have flipped.

The Blue Devils are the ones atop the division while the Hokies

have dropped three of four during their worst start since the 1992

group opened 2-3-1 and became the most recent Tech team to miss the


”I guess we’d be in crisis if we couldn’t move the ball and if

we couldn’t stop anybody,” quarterback Logan Thomas said. ”That’s

not the case. We’ve been able to move the ball and we’ve been able

to stop people. We just haven’t done it all in the same game


In last week’s loss at North Carolina, they surrendered the most

yards rushing they’ve ever allowed to one player – 262 by Gio


”I wanted to see what, exactly, happened – like, what runs did

he have that were just that open,” Thompson said. ”Because 262 is

a big amount. … They did some things defensively that I’ve never

seen, like when you put everybody in the box and after you pass the

secondary, it’s over.

”We’re just going to go out there with the Duke schemes that we

have and play our type of football,” he added.

AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Blacksburg, Va., contributed

to this report.