Inside Jayhawk Nation

September 16, 2009 3:53 AM

It's Not the Hardwood, but KU vs. Duke is Intriguing Matchup

Coach K. versus Bill Self would be fun to watch. Two ring-wearing, veteran coaches battling it out on the court for 40 minutes would be enjoyed by an college basketball fan.

However, there aren't many KU fans that care about Coach K vs. Coach Self this weekend. Instead, they are worried about Coach Mangino vs. Coach Cutcliffe - or more importantly KU vs. Duke football.

Three years ago this game could have been shown on the Cartoon Network. Two football schools starved of recent success, bumbling around on the field as if they were recovering from an anvil landing on their heads. From 1996-2002 KU went 27-51 with no bowl appearances. From 2005 (Mangino's fourth year) on, KU has gone 35-17 and won three bowl games, matching the school's total since it began play in 1890.

Duke took strides of its own last year in David Cutcliffe's first season, going 4-8 and winning a game in the ACC. Those strides were huge considering Duke went 4-32 the previous four seasons. Since 1994 the program has had three 0-11 seasons and one 0-12 season. In other words, the basketball team may been able to beat them.

Now, just five days from the schools' first meeting, the Duke-KU game could actually draw some attention. Not many are picking the Blue Devils to walk into Memorial Stadium and leave with a victory. However, Duke is in a BCS league, and eyes will be on Todd Reesing and Company to see how they play in a non-conference game against a "Big Six' school.

The 'Hawks are defeating opponents by more than 36 points per game this season, and Duke equaled its win total from 2005 and 2006 Saturday by defeating Army.

In a press conference this week, Mangino praised the Blue Devils for not panicking when down one in the fourth quarter against Army with their backup quarterback in the game. This wasn't exactly Vince Young leading the Longhorns to a last-second defeat of USC in the Rose Bowl, but in a sense, Mangino is right. The team obviously has improved. Two years ago, trailing Army by one in the fourth quarter would have been a huge accomplishment for the Blue Devils.

Reesing was complimentary about the team as well, but deep down he knows they cannot stop his powerful offense. However, there are still some flaws in the offense. Mangino said his team left some points on the field against UTEP last week. The 'Hawks should be able to work out some kinks, but don't look for the offense to be running on all cylinders until Big XII play.

No matter what happens, this game does not belong on the Cartoon Network. It will be two talented, improving teams trying to prove other sports besides basketball exist at their respective schools.
Prediction: KU 38, Duke 13

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