by Mike Potter
Duke's senior class won't be going to a bowl game, but the Blue Devils definitely have a chance to accomplish something special on Saturday.
The visitor to Wallace Wade Stadium at 1:30 won't be multiple arch-rival UNC, since the ACC decided it would rather have the Tar Heels end the season with N.C. State this time.
Instead coming in is Wake Forest (4-7, 2-5 ACC), the Blue Devils' permanent cross-divisional foe from the Atlantic Division.
Wake has dominated the series against the Blue Devils (5-6, 3-4) in recent years, winning the last nine games.
But if Duke can put together a win in front of the home fans, it will mark the Blue Devils' first non-losing season since 1994.
The Deacons' successes over the past nine years under Jim Grobe were something that gave the Duke folks the idea they might have a chance to win in football.
And for the last two seasons, although Coach David Cutcliffe has yet to put together a winner, the concept of Duke as a permanent conference doormat has been extinguished or at the very least interrupted.
"This is a big ball game for lots of reasons," Cutcliffe said. "Everybody knows we have a chance to go 6-6, and it's important that these guys go out playing well.
"Wake Forest is playing well. We're not playing North Carolina last, but as (the ACC) put the schedule together they put together obviously another rival game. There should be a lot of interest. They're calling for 55 degrees and sunshine so it should be an absolutely perfect day for college football."
The Blue Devils had had game captains all season, but announced their permanent captains on Thursday.
Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and linebacker Vincent Rey are the captains, with Re'quan Boyette, Vince Oghobaase, Ayanga Okpokowuruk and Leon Wright selected as alternate captains.
"You really don't know what the future holds," Wright said. "I'm just trying to hold onto the present and all the good memories. We've talked as a group of seniors and know what we have to do. We have to keep the team up and stay focused on this game."
Duke (5-6, 3-4 ACC) vs. Wake Forest (4-7, 2-5)
[Saturday, noon, Wallace Wade Stadium]
Duke leads series 53-34-2
Audio: WDNC-620, WDUR-1490, GoDuke.com, WakeForestSports.cstv.com
Key stats ...
Duke: Team scoring 24.4 to opponents' 26.8. Rushing 63.1 to 155.2. Passing 297.5 to 201.5. Individual leaders - (rush) Desmond Scott 60-221 1 TD, (pass) Thaddeus Lewis 246-401-2943-7 17 TD, (receive) Donovan Varner 54-873 6 TD, (tackle) Vincent Rey 87 with 2 int., 1 fum. rec.
Wake Forest: Team scoring 24.6 to 25.5. Rushing 132.3 to 173.1. Passing 262.5 to 203.5. Individual leaders - (rush) Josh Adams 109-499 4 TD, (pass) Riley Skinner 236-362-12-2788 21 TD, (receive) Devon Brown 53-589 4 TD, (tackle) Dominique Midgett 73 with 1 fum. rec.
Best message board tidbit on the game:
10ispro at DevilsIllustrated.com "I went to the last two away losses to Wake. I'm looking for a little more payback for the '06 blocked field goal on the last second. That was the worst feeling I have ever had at a football game. It was like a kick in the gut. Anyway, here's to better days, which are here already as far as I'm concerned."
Duke will win if ... The Blue Devils can somehow find the form they had back in October, when they beat N.C. State and Maryland and Virginia back to back. It could happen if Thaddeus Lewis can pass for at least 322 yards and finish his career over the 10,000 career mark. And if the Blue Devils can keep Wake quarterback Riley Skinner from having a big game.
Wake Forest will win if ... The Deacons can find a way to get Lewis off-stride, and if Skinner can have another big game. Wake's running game has been producing twice as much yardage as Duke's, so the Deacons could make time of possession a factor.
Can the French Blue Devils finally prevail against the Old Gold and Black? Well it's about time that they did after nine straight losses in the series. Duke has a chance to go out with its first non-losing season in 15 years and the Blue Devils are at home. All of that should be pretty good motivation.
Players to watch ...
Duke: #9 QB Thaddeus Lewis, # 31 MLB Vincent Rey, # 83 WR Austin Kelly, #91 DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk.
Wake Forest: #8 WR Marshall Williams, #11 QB Riley Skinner, #52 LB Dominique Midgett, #72 C Russell Nenon.
Injury report ...
Duke: QB Thaddeus Lewis (leg) probable, RB Re'quan Boyette (leg) questionable, DT Vince Oghobaase (leg) questionable, WR Johnny Williams (knee) questionable.
Wake Forest: FS Josh Bush (arm) OUT.
Vegas line: Wake Forest by 4.
Score prediction: Duke 31, Wake Forest 28.