DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — It’s another regular-season finale at Duke, which means this is the last game for a team that isn’t going to a bowl.
Except that this time, it’s Miami that will be home for the holidays.
The lousy-no-more Blue Devils are headed to the postseason.
Duke plays host to the Hurricanes on Saturday in a game that would have had huge implications in the ACC Coastal Division race, had the Blue Devils not lost last week and had Miami not withdrawn from bowl consideration.
So now, the only things on the line are the pursuit of a seventh win and a .500 finish in league play for Duke (6-5, 3-4). For the Hurricanes (6-5, 4-3), there’s only pride and the chance to finish November with three wins in four games.
Still, Miami coach Al Golden says motivation shouldn’t be a problem.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think there is any question that we’ll be defined by how we respond moving forward,” Golden said. “We can make all the excuses that we want, but the reality is we’re facing a very good team. A team that is obviously hungry, that is going to a bowl game and senior-laden or experienced-laden on Senior Day. Even despite this or regardless of this it was going to be a tough out, and we better get focused and ready to go.”
The Hurricanes self-imposed a second straight postseason ban because of an NCAA investigation that is expected to eventually lead to stiff sanctions against them.
That move, announced Monday, gave the Coastal Division’s berth in next week’s ACC championship game to Georgia Tech — which gave the Blue Devils their third straight loss, a 42-24 defeat last week that eliminated them from title-game contention.
“We have a big hurdle in front of us. We have a huge carrot in front of us,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “The prospects of a seventh win, the prospects of then that allowing an eighth win if you accomplish that, is significant. The hurdle is Miami, an extremely talented football team that can ignite things offensively.”
The knock on the Hurricanes this season has seldom been their offense — they average 421 total yards and nearly 30 points, and have scored 40 in each of their last two games.
It’s the defense that has been suspect. With a depth chart full of freshmen and sophomores, Miami is giving up 224 yards rushing and 477 total yards per game. There are signs the Hurricanes are improving — they gave up a season-low nine points in last week’s rout of a punchless South Florida team.
The Blue Devils will try to test that defense with an offense that has sputtered against quality teams the last three weeks. They scored at least 30 points in all six wins and haven’t scored more than 24 in any loss.
“We will be challenged,” Cutcliffe said. “They will challenge our receivers. We will have to perform. It is one that I will be disappointed if Duke doesn’t ignite, and that is the expectation, that this to be an emotionally charged football game.”
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