Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. 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 2013.
As part of our 2013 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: Miami Hurricanes
Last Year: Loss, 52-45 vs. Miami
This Year: November 16, vs. Miami
Though the Blue Devils had already been eliminated from Coastal Division title contention when this game wrapped up late last year, it didn’t mean Duke didn’t want that victory. After starting out 6-2, the team ended up dropping its final four regular season games and then a bowl game to finish 6-7, marking the 18th straight season the program had a losing mark. Yes, the postseason streak is over, and that’s certainly a moral victory, but a win over the Hurricanes to close out the ACC slate would’ve meant a guaranteed winning mark. However, in failing to do so, it does give the team something to build upon for 2013.
As resilient as ever, Duke actually played one of its better offensive games of the season against Miami, despite the fact that its defense allowed nearly 650 yards of total offense to the ‘Canes (the main reason Duke lost). In his last home game playing for the Blue Devils, senior Sean Renfree went 36-of-59 for 432 yards and four scores, while fellow senior Conner Vernon caught 11 passes (two for touchdowns). Even as the game appeared lost late in the third — Duke was down 45-24 — the team refused to quit, displaying the type of tenacity that had been lost virtually every week since the October upset over North Carolina. Alas, they would fall short in the comeback attempt, losing by a touchdown.
This year’s game is likely to take on a very different flavor, though. Duke, after losing program cornerstones Vernon and Renfree, is seen to be in rebuilding mode. Miami, on the other hand, is seen as the Coastal Division favorite with a powerful offensive attack whose biggest obstacle is the continuing NCAA investigation against the program. If the Blue Devils couldn’t stop Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson last year, what makes anyone think they’ll be able to this year, when both players now have another year of experience under their respective belts?
Well, they can’t, really. And that’s sort of the point. Stopping Miami’s offense isn’t the key to beating the Hurricanes. The key, as will likely be pointed out throughout the 2013 season, is beating their beleaguered defense. As mentioned, many are billing Duke as a rebuilding team, but I don’t buy it. The main pieces of the defense are back, with more experience than before (still, pointless for this argument). The offense, though lacking its top playmakers, still features the underrated Anthony Boone at quarterback, along with top receiver Jamison Crowder, who was virtually step-for-step with Vernon all of 2012. If Duke can spread the field against the ‘Canes, I believe anything can happen in this one. No, Wallace Wade Stadium doesn’t have the best home-field advantage, but in front of a home crowd, with a major upset in the offing, who says Duke can’t dream of the impossible for an afternoon?