DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A big victory gave Virginia confidence that it can win its Atlantic Coast Conference division. Duke feels the same way after earning an important victory on the road.
Two unlikely Coastal contenders meet Saturday when the Cavaliers visit the Blue Devils.
Virginia (4-2, 2-1) is coming off a 16-13 upset of reigning division champion and preseason favorite Miami that knocked the Hurricanes from the national rankings. Now coach Bronco Mendenhall says the next challenge for his program is making sure his players believe they can go on to win the division and the conference.
"What's different (from last year) is our confidence continues to grow," Mendenhall said. "Our capability continues to increase. But it's slow and steady and methodical."
That victory gave the Cavaliers an important tiebreaker in a crowded division race in which every team has at least one loss except Virginia Tech — which looked quite vulnerable while needing a last-minute touchdown to escape at North Carolina.
The Hokies gave Duke (5-1, 1-1) its only loss. After an open week, the Blue Devils used a third-quarter flurry to beat Georgia Tech 28-14.
"We will have to play well and we know we're capable of playing well, but we know if we don't prepare well, we won't," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "That's just kind of our M.O."
KEEPING UP WITH JONES
Virginia has been a particularly perplexing opponent for Duke QB Daniel Jones. Of the 22 interceptions he's thrown in two-plus years as the starter, seven have come against the Cavaliers — including a five-pick afternoon two years ago in their last meeting in Durham. He's thrown multiple interceptions in three games and two of those were losses to Virginia. CB Juan Thornhill has picked him off three times.
A win by the Blue Devils would make them bowl eligible, giving them a 6-1 start for the third time since 2014. Duke didn't earn its sixth win last season until its regular-season finale at Wake Forest.
Both teams have been stingy, with Virginia ranking third in the ACC in total defense (327 ypg) and the Blue Devils not far behind at No. 5 (350 ypg). In scoring defense, it's Duke that ranks third (17.7 ppg) and the Cavaliers fifth (19.2 ppg).
Duke has lost the lone senior on its defensive line for the season. DT Edgar Cerenord had surgery earlier this week on his ruptured right Achilles tendon suffered in the Georgia Tech win. He started all four games he played and had 14 tackles. Trevon McSwain, who started the other two games, returns to the starting lineup.
Virginia has won three in a row in a series that dates to 1890 and has been played every year since 1963, with the Blue Devils winning the three meetings before that. This is only the third time since 2010 that both teams enter their annual matchup after victories.
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