ACC Football 2012 Payback Games: Duke Blue Devils

Duke’s Matt Daniels Was a Big Part of their Close Loss to Virginia Tech in 2011. Will They Be Able to Reverse Their Fortunes in the Rematch Without Him?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2011. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2012.

As part of our 2012 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Duke Blue Devils

Opponent: Virginia Tech

Last Year: Loss, 14-10 vs. Virginia Tech

This Year: October 13, at Virginia Tech

Duke really thought they’d finally broken through. In a year when they were supposed to finally make that first bowl game since 1994, things appeared less bleak than normal. At 3-4, hosting divisional nemesis Virginia Tech — maybe the impossible could happen. Maybe, they could have broken a then-43-game losing streak to ranked opponents. Obviously, that was not the case, and that streak hit 44 by days end. But if ever there was a moral victory for Duke, this one might have qualified.

Tech came into the game at 7-1, ranked 12th overall. With one of the country’s top defenses, and an efficient running game, Duke appeared to be the least of their worries en route to another (eventual) Coastal division title. And while the Hokies held the Blue Devils to just 326 total yards, and forced four turnovers, it was the Duke defense that was most impressive. Instead of being overwhelmed by the likes of VPI QB Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson, the team buckled down and kept the two weapons in check — most notably during a second half that only saw three total points scored (by Duke). Throughout their now-44-game losing streak to ranked opponents, they’d rarely come close to pulling out a victory. Due to their defensive effort, we almost saw a figurative miracle.

In 2012, Duke figures to be no better than they were last season, and Virginia Tech may not be any better or worse. But there’s few that expect anything but the same result when the Devils visit Blacksburg, Va. Another year wiser, Thomas is projected to grow by leaps and bounds, and should have little problem carving up a Duke defense that lost its best player (Matt Daniels) to the NFL Draft. if Duke coach David Cutcliffe and quarterback Sean Renfree could finally end the streak and exact payback against VPI, it would likely define both of their legacies at the school. If luck’s on their side, it would be among the biggest upsets of 2012, but on paper, the odds seem remote for Duke to do anything but repeat history.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson

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