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ACC Notebook: Duke eyes ACC Championship tilt against FSU

The SportsXchange

Duke puts drama in most of its Atlantic Coast Conference games. Now the Blue Devils are headed to a dramatic conclusion to the regular season.

If Duke defeats North Carolina, it goes to the ACC championship game.

Florida State is awaiting the winner of the Coastal Division. The Seminoles drained all the drama out of the Atlantic Division race several weeks ago.

So it's Duke, which was picked to finish last in its division in the league's official preseason poll, that's suddenly the darling of the conference.

"How odd is that?" coach David Cutcliffe said when asked about the crazy development that a bunch of other teams were pulling for the Blue Devils to lose during the last couple of weeks of the season to improve their stocks.

In the past, many of those teams were wishing -- and usually those wishes went unfulfilled -- that Duke could pull upsets in order to disrupt other teams at or near the top of the standings.

So, really, here it is in late November and it's Duke that still matters in ACC football.

This week, there's a batch of traditional, non-conference rivalry games involving the ACC that might go quite a ways in molding the league's reputation: Florida State at Florida, Clemson at South Carolina, Georgia Tech at home vs. Georgia.

All told, those three games plus Wake Forest's visit to Vanderbilt mean the ACC is matched up against the Southeastern Conference in four games on the final weekend of the regular season.

FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 13 IN THE ACC

1. Florida State had more off-field topics involving QB Jameis Winston to dodge than anything presented on the field. The next game against Florida could shift some attention back to the field, though the investigation that involves Winston regarding an alleged sexual assault tends to be an overriding theme.

2. Duke's knack for recovering from deficits received more momentum when the Blue Devils overcame a 14-0 hole to defeat Wake Forest. Now the Blue Devils are one victory away from becoming Florida State's opponent in the ACC championship game.

3. There were enough snoozers on the second-to-last week of the season around the ACC and those involved non-league action. ACC teams on the right side of blowouts were Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. On the flip side, North Carolina State lost a non-league outing against East Carolina.

4. Pittsburgh solved part of the mystery involving the makeup of the bowl-eligible pool from the ACC by defeating Syracuse 17-16. Syracuse has another chance to qualify for a bowl, but it must defeat visiting Boston College in the regular-season finale in order to do so.

5. Maryland's final ACC football game comes with a trip to North Carolina State, which is winless in league competition. Long-time Maryland athletics director Debbie Yow is now the AD at N.C. State, so that makes for a nice subplot as this matchup unfolds. Maryland departs for membership in the Big Ten Conference next year.
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