DURHAM – As a native of Birmingham, Ala., and a 1976 graduate of Alabama, Duke coach David Cutcliffe certainly understands the significance of Saturday's home-game against the Crimson Tide at Wallace Wade Stadium.
He's aware that the Blue Devils (1-1, 0-1 ACC) are facing the defending national champions and No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
"If we play really, really well, we have a chance at winning this game," Cutcliffe said at Tuesday's news conference. "We're capable of playing really well."
In their first two games this season – a victory over Elon and a loss to Wake Forest – the Devils have sputtered in the third quarter.
Against Wake, after rallying to tie the game at half-time, the Devils started flat in the third and were never able to revive themselves.
Cutcliffe, in his third year with the program, said at the start of this season that this team was more capable of playing "great" than his two previous teams. He also said he wasn't sure how consistent this team would perform.
Both statements have been true in the start to this season, with the Devils vacillating from tremendous to inept.
Cutcliffe, often blunt and straight-forward about task, said his team will need "great" play to knock off the reigning national champions as they did in 1937 with a win over Pittsburgh and in 1951 with a win over Tennessee and in 1955 with a win over Ohio State.
"Now it's going to take four quarters of that kind of football to beat a team as outstanding as Alabama," he said. "So the part that's so critical about this game is it's the third game and let's see how much more we can get right in the third game than in the first two. We can't afford to have a doldrum in the third quarter. We better play great four quarters."