DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke needs just one win in its final six games to qualify for its first bowl berth since 1994. Getting there probably won't be as simple as it sounds.
The Blue Devils are a combined 1-39 against their remaining six opponents since the Atlantic Coast Conference expanded in 2004 — including an 0-8 mark against this week's opponent, Virginia Tech.
Still, only once in the past 17 years has Duke even been this close to bowl eligibility. There's no shielding the players from those bowl possibilities — so coach David Cutcliffe doesn't mind if they savor the situation a little.
"I told my wife, 'I don't want to spoil a good party,'" Cutcliffe said Tuesday. "That's not the only reason you're playing the game, but that's just human nature. How are you going to fool them?
"They're starving. Why wouldn't they feel that way? To ruin their party? I'm not going to do that. But I don't want to hear a bunch about it in the locker room before the ball game. Better start thinking about what you've got to do to win a game, period."
These Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0) are off to their best start since the 1994 team opened with seven straight wins on its way to the school's most recent bowl game. Only once since then — a 5-7 finish in 2009 — have they won this many games.
Along with that success has come a little respect from the poll voters — Duke received three poll points in this week's AP Top 25 — but not from the oddsmakers. The Hokies (3-3, 1-1) are 10-point favorites.
"People still see us as an underdog and trying to see if we really are who we are, depending on who we play," running back Juwan Thompson said.
Part of the reason for Duke's success has been a manageable schedule. Four of the wins have come against Bowl Subdivision teams that are a combined 7-16. None has a winning record and Wake Forest (3-3) is the only one at .500.
Now things are about to get tougher: Three of the next four opponents — Florida State, Clemson and the Hokies — have appeared in the Top 25 this season.
Nobody on this team knows what it feels like to beat any of the final six opponents. Duke's only post-expansion win against any of them came in 2004 against Clemson.