Tom Murphy, who voted for Duke this week in the AP Poll, said the Blue Devils’ offensive execution will need to improve should they hope to stay in his top 25.
Thanh-Ha Nguyen / The Chronicle
Tom Murphy, who voted for Duke this week in the AP Poll, said the Blue Devils’ offensive execution will need to improve should they hope to stay in his top 25.
Following Duke's 13-10 upset victory on the road against No. 16 Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils received two votes in this week's Associated Press top 25 poll. One of the two media members who voted for Duke was Tom Murphy, who covers Arkansas football for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, Ark. Murphy discussed with The Chronicle's Daniel Carp why he had the Blue Devils in his top 25 this week.

The Chronicle: You were one of two AP voters who put Duke in their top 25. Explain to me why you did it.

Tom Murphy: I have a great respect for David Cutcliffe. I got to watch a bit of the Virginia Tech game and they put some pressure on Logan Thomas, forcing a lot of turnovers. It was an impressive performance. I look at the teams that are kind of in the range there right now and I see both of the Arizona teams, Notre Dame, teams of that magnitude and I just felt like the ACC is having a pretty good year and Duke warranted a vote there.

TC: Looking inside the mind of an AP voter, how much had you seen of Duke this season and what portion of your vote was based off last week's game at Virginia Tech?

TM: Before I vote, I go back and look at everybody's result. I saw that they lost to Georgia Tech and Pitt—in a pretty high scoring game against Pitt. I had not watched a lot of them, but it was an impressive road win on Saturday. After their open date in a couple weeks they will have Miami. If they can win a couple of games maybe they can solidify where I have them at this point.

TC: Was any part of you surprised that given the magnitude of this win, considering how long it had been since Duke had beaten a ranked opponent on the road, that more voters didn't join in and slide the Blue Devils into that 25th spot?

TM: Not really. There's a ton of teams in that range. If you just examine it and you do this week by week, you'll see that there are a ton of teams there on the cusp getting votes. I happened to watch the game and liked what I saw. I'll say this, if they don't get some better offensive numbers they aren't going to last long in the top 25.

TC: Were you at all surprised to see most people still had Virginia Tech ranked ahead of Duke even though the Blue Devils won that game?

TM: I can't get into the minds of the other voters. Really when you start getting into the head-to-head part, it gets really complicated. Take a team like South Carolina, who they've beaten, I'm sure Missouri is still ahead of them in a lot of polls. There is a direct head-to-head result and I certainly had Duke ahead of Virginia Tech.

TC: Having followed what David Cutcliffe has been able to do at Duke now in his six years, can you explain from an outside perspective what you think this win means for Duke football nationally?

TM: I'm aware of some of Duke's great history from the '50s and the Steve Spurrier era, but I just have great respect for David Cutcliffe. He's got a good program there.

TC: Do you think after this type of win people around the country are going to start paying more attention to this team?

TM: Possibly so. Open date, [N.C. State] and Miami. That's going to be their big chance.

TC: Since they have an open date, I'm not sure how you normally approach that from a voting standpoint, but is there a way they can drop out of your top 25 without playing this weekend?

TM: Certainly. The teams I had in consideration—I remember Arizona State was one, I thought about Notre Dame and Texas, a couple of three-loss SEC teams like Ole Miss—if one of those teams really blows somebody's doors off, sure Duke can drop out.