Wednesday, October 3, 2012

a civil conversation with Duke Sports Blog

It's the Duke game this week (duh), and in keeping with the finest of blogger traditions, it's time to go back to the well for a Q&A session.  Mike of the Duke Sports Blog approached me with questions, and I never turn down an opportunity for a post I barely even have to write.  His questions and my answers are over there, so without further ado:

1. Duke is 4-1, their best record at this point since 1994. What's been the biggest key to getting there? Is that success sustainable or will Duke struggle to find the two wins they need to make a bowl game?

-- If they're to get those two wins, where are they most likely to find them? The biggest factor in Duke getting to 4-1 has been a combination of a manageable schedule and a team filled with more talent and depth than the program has had in years. I do believe that the success is sustainable at this point thanks to David Cutcliffe. He has improved every aspect of the program starting with recruiting more talent, improving facilities and getting the backing of the administration, something Duke has not had since the 1960 and before. I think that the program has been like a critically ill person who has been on life support and improved from critical to stable condition under Cutcliffe. They aren't completely out of the woods but they are well on the way to recovery I think. I do believe that they will get two more win, but it won't be easy. I think the best shots they have at winning two would be Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech. But they have to get/stay healthy and continue to play well.

2. What's the status of Sean Renfree? If he doesn't play, what would be the plan, and can Duke win without him?

-- Cutcliffe is keeping his status for Saturday under wraps until Thursday, according to his Tuesday press conference. He did say he was back on the practice field but didn't elaborate on how much he did physically. He said in his Sunday teleconference though that he felt Renfree cold play even if he doesn't get a lot of reps because he is such a cerebral player. If I were a betting man I'd say he would play, but if he can't I'm confident that Anthony Boone can lead the offense, but not as confident that Duke will win. He offers a running dimension that is a change from what Renfree does so it could be harder to prepare for that, but I think Duke has handled injuries well this year and would expect them to do well enough

3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Duke's defense?

-- I think the strength of this defense has been corner Ross Cockrell who has been one of the top defensive back's statistically in the conference. Getting safety Jordon Byas was critical and it showed with him winning the ACC DB of the week. The defensive line has also stepped up big time and defensive end Kenny Anunike and Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo have been big time play makers and have helped the Duke defensive line get pressure in the back field for the first time in I don't even know when. This defense is just so much better than they have been in any time in recent history. They aren't perfect and they have given up too many big plays but they are just significantly better in all areas.

4. Jela Duncan has looked pretty impressive this year, at least from afar. Besides ripping his helmet off, what's the best way to stop him?

-- I believe Duncan is their best running back and has the ability to run in between the tackles or outside. He is strong, can break tackles and facemask penalties in one bound. To stop him or any Duke back, you have to beat the offensive line off the ball and force them back. Duke hasn't featured a back in the traditional sense, and Virginia can expect to see all three primary back in Duncan, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson. If Duke can't get some kind of line surge then it could be a long day for the Duke running game.

5. Conner Vernon's next catch will give him sole possession of first place on the ACC's all-time receptions list, and he needs about 400 yards or so to earn the yardage record too. Is he the best football player in Duke's history?

-- I wouldn't say he was the very best, but he is up there. Duke has had some great players in the distant past. Sonny Jurgenson, Mike McGee, Leo Hart the list goes on, but recent history has been void of truly great players and I think Vernon is in that group. He is certainly the best receiver since College Football Hall-of-Famer Clarkston Hines.

6. What is the prediction for Saturday?

-- I like Duke to win this game because of the momentum and how well they've been playing. A confident team is a dangerous team and I think Duke can continue to win. With that being said I wouldn't be shocked if Virginia came out and won by double digits but I expect a reasonably high scoring game with Duke winning a close one. Duke-32 UVA-28.


Lots of news from the ACC meetings this week, most of which we'll digest on Monday as part of the weekend review.  What I don't have civil words for is the decision to go back to an eight-game schedule.  Let me get this straight.  Until Notre Dame joins, we have two divisions of seven, so you'll play six division games, one protected crossover, and one rotating game.  That means you'll go six years between games against half the rest of the conference.  To put this in perspective, if you have a baby born the day of a UVA-Clemson game, that child will be in first grade the next time we play them.

And if they work the rotation just right (it's gonna be weird) you will go TWELVE YEARS between Clemson (or any other ACC team) appearances in Scott Stadium.  We have gone from a setup where any student would see every conference foe twice at home, to where every student will miss out on half of the conference.

We will play Wake Forest this year.  The last time we played Wake Forest:

-- Al Groh was our coach, and he would be coach the next year too
-- Marc Verica was the quarterback, and the leading receivers were Kevin Ogletree and Cary Koch.
-- Our leading rusher was Cedric Peerman.

Not one single player on our team now played in that game.  That's how things are with the rotation we have set up.  Why we would want to make this worse is a mystery to end all mysteries.  (Well, not really.  Contrary to popular belief, it's probably not to lure Notre Dame.  It's a concession to schools like Clemson and Florida State who are locked into OOC rivalries and want the flexibility to continue to schedule sweet little cupcakes.)  At any rate, any arrangement in which a player can join a team and never, ever be a part of a game against any one conference opponent is officially over the Line of Extreme Dumbassery.

This is stupid as fuck.  We will no longer have a conference.  We have two conferences with a loose scheduling arrangement and an agreement to play an early-December bowl game.  If and when we go to 16 teams, a nine-game schedule can return a major semblance of sanity to scheduling, but if nothing else the ACC knows how to turn a good thing into something really idiotic, so I'm not holding my breath they'll ever get it right.


Anonymous said...

"We will no longer have a conference. We have two conferences with a loose scheduling arrangement and an agreement to play an early-December bowl game."

Exactly. The word "conference" has officially been stretched beyond the breaking point. This is like the old Lincoln quote, "Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one." Well we can *call* this a conference but by traditional objective measurements, it isn't one.

It's not ideal, but at this point I'd toss the idea of static divisions altogether. Rotate the divisions each year. Otherwise we're basically now in the "Coastal Conference" and the Atlantic teams just don't matter.

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