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The Devils Go To Music City!

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by Greg Sanders

I find our "rivalry" with Vanderbilt interesting. It's been my experience that Vandy folks tend to have a strong dislike for Duke. Quick story: When a Duke classmate of mine started medical school at Vanderbilt, all new students were required to stand up and say where they'd done their undergrad work. When my friend said "Duke," all the older med students who'd done their undergrad work at Vandy stood up and shouted, "Duke sucks!" No other institution was accorded such, umm, respect.

This is one of those one-way rivalries -- while Vandy people may not like Duke, Duke people don't give the proverbial rat's ass about Vanderbilt. Why? In my own Duke-centric opinion, it's because there are a number of folks at Vanderbilt who wanted to go to Duke but weren't accepted. Not to take anything away from Vandy or its students, but the whole thing reminds me a bit of the Duke-Harvard "rivalry."

Anyway, on to the game. Vandy is a 17-point favorite over Duke, and Vandy-types see this as more or less a sure bet for their first win of the year. It's easy to see why: the Commodores are 0-3 on the season, but they're a good 0-3, having played both Alabama and Ole Miss tough. Duke, on the other hand, has shown nothing promising in two of its first three games. Fortunately, the game in which they showed some signs of life was the last game, so maybe we'll see even more improvement this week.

Vandy, as has been their norm for the past number of years, has a strong defense -- one of the SEC's best, which is quite an accomplishment for them. (When I was growing up in Georgia, Vandy was literally the joke of the SEC -- downhome journalist/comedian and UGA grad Lewis Grizzard had a punchline in one of his routines that went something like, "The Spanish Armada couldn't beat Vanderbilt, for God's sake.") Unless Duke can shake off the offensive cobwebs in a big way this weekend, it could be another low-scoring affair for the Devils. But let's remember that, after a poor initial showing, Duke's offense suddenly came to life in game #3 last year. We can at least hope that a similar thing will happen in game #4 this year. Not dropping passes would be a good way to start.

To offset the strong defense, the Commodores have a tepid offense. Coach Franks says the Vandy offense is better this year than it has been recently, but that hasn't shown up much on the scoreboard, as they've scored 7 and 10 points in two of their first three games. They're stronger with the pass than the rush, which could be a problem, as Duke defends the run pretty well but has shown an almost complete inability to defend the pass.

Bottom line: This is a winnable game for Duke. It's not a likely win, and we may well have to be content with seeing more progress, but it's one of the few games this year in which Duke has a reasonable chance going in.