Duke attempts to slow ACC buzzsaw at No. 2 Clemson
Field Level Mediaon
In 36 years as a college football coach, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe estimates the 2018 Clemson Tigers are the first team he's faced that was beyond compare.
He'll get the opportunity to measure the Tigers up close and personal on Saturday night, when his Blue Devils face the undefeated and No. 2-ranked Tigers at Clemson's Memorial Stadium.
"When you look at this team on tape, whether it be offense or defense or kicking - this may be the most complete team that I've seen in years, maybe ever," Cutcliffe said. "I've prepared for a lot of great football teams over 30-plus years, but this team is complete."
The numbers support Cutcliffe's contention.
Clemson leads the nation in scoring defense (12.7 points per game) and ranks fourth nationally in scoring offense (45.7 ppg). The Tigers' defense, anchored by a front line consisting of four potential first-round NFL Draft picks, ranks among the Top 10 in nine statistical categories.
"They get dressed just like us and they're Division I athletes like us," Duke offensive tackle Christian Harris said. "Our mindset is we can handle them. We can't look at them like they're all-stars. We have to look at them like they're another ACC opponent."
Yet, they're not.
The Tigers have won 32 of their last 34 games against Atlantic Coast Conference competition, including a 7-0 record this season, and have clinched a fourth consecutive division title and berth in the ACC Championship Game.
Clemson, which is 10-0 overall, has outscored its last four ACC foes 267-43, and a victory against Duke would give the Tigers' senior class their 51st victory over a four-year period, which would be both an ACC and school record.
"They've got an opportunity to make some history," Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said. "This is the fifth senior class in a row that has one-upped the previous senior class. They take a lot of pride in that."
Both teams feature outstanding quarterbacks: freshman Trevor Lawrence for Clemson and junior Daniel Jones for Duke. Lawrence, who will be making only his sixth career start, leads the ACC with 19 touchdown passes while Jones if coming off a game in which he accounted for 547 yards and four touchdowns against North Carolina.
"I'm incredibly impressed with their quarterback," Swinney said. "This guy is as good as there is out there. He has tons of arm strength, he's big and accurate and can fly.
"Duke has had a heck of a year, for sure," Swinney said. "David Cutcliffe is as good of a coach as there is in the country. What he's done at Duke is unbelievable - the consistency he's established there."
Duke (7-3, 3-3) has clinched its fifth winning season in the last six years. That represents the most successful stretch for the program since five winning seasons in six seasons between 1960 and 1965.