Duke’s 42-3 loss to Alabama last weekend had the Blue Devils’ cheeks turning deep shades of crimson. Luckily, head coach David Cutcliffe has as close to a sure win as he can get in North Carolina A&T this Saturday—but danger lies therein. The Blue Zone gives you three keys to Duke’s matchup against the Aggies:
Getting pummeled by Nick Saban-sponsored, NFL-ready athletes can understandably cause a direct hit to morale. That’s why Duke scheduled a meatball in week 2—a showdown with FCS heavyweight North Carolina A&T. This year, the Aggies go without last year’s MEAC player of the year—quarterback Lamar Raynard—and they barely scraped by Elon last week. Despite Cutcliffe’s praise of A&T’s program, a victory by anything less than 30 will be nothing to write home about. However pretty a "W" may look on paper, the Blue Devils must keep in mind the utter meaninglessness of a victory against the Aggies in the big picture.
Get a kick out of it
Junior kicker Noel Ruiz’s record-tying, game-winning 52-yard field goal against Elon last week would have made him North Carolina A&T’s hero—had he not missed his two previous attempts from 43 and 40 yards out. Ruiz simply doesn’t have the skill of an FBS kicker. Including last Saturday’s thriller, he has converted just 15 of his 27 career field goal attempts. It’s possible A&T head coach Sam Washington pulls out all the stops against the Blue Devils and goes for it on 4th-and-short, but Duke would probably prefer for Ruiz to swipe at the ball from long distance.
The origin of North Carolina A&T’s mascot, Aggie the Bulldog, may surprise you. As legend has it, when a referee called off an A&T touchdown, an anonymous fan untied a shepherd dog, which promptly bounded onto the field and assaulted the referee. It cost the school its membership in the CIAA but won the hearts of the student body. The mascot was subsequently named Aggie after the school’s agricultural roots. Given Duke’s status as the 27.5-point favorite, the referees can only hope that leash technology has improved since then. NCAA officials may want to book a hotel for a reserve referee in Durham, just in case.