The devils are coming to Murfreesboro. The Duke Blue Devils to be precise. Admittedly, Duke's football team visiting the Boro doesn't strike nearly the same fearful tone that it's basketball team would bring, but Middle Tennessee hosting a Power 5 squad from the ACC is a big deal.
Just two weeks ago, this Blue Devils squad was beaten mercilessly on national TV by the No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. But most teams not-named-Clemson usually succumb to such a fate against the Tide.
Duke's head coach David Cutcliffe, the former two-time offensive coordinator under Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee, anticipates a battle Saturday night at Johnny (Red) Floyd stadium.
"We're playing another championship program," Cutcliffe told WRAL radio in Durham, NC on Tuesday. "They will have a full house. It's certainly going to be challenging."
Following last weekend's home opener against Tennessee State which brought almost 21,000 fans to Floyd stadium, a game against a quality ACC foe like Duke should easily pack the house again.
"It was really a great turnout, and it made the atmosphere really fun. It was fun for those guys to play in. It was loud, it was exciting. We're going to need you again this week as we play Duke," MT head coach Rick Stockstill told reporters at his weekly press conference.
Saturday night's blackout theme should ensure the crowd being extra rowdy.
That fact is not lost on Cutcliffe.
Cutcliffe told WRAL, "I told our guys a little while ago, 'expect a unique atmosphere.' They're having a blackout--the team is wearing black helmets, black jerseys, black pants, and the fans all dressed in black. Let's see how we handle it."
Cutcliffe is widely known as a quarterback-whisperer having recruited Peyton Manning to Tennessee and brother Eli Manning to Ole Miss when Cutcliffe coached the Rebels. His most recent pupil-turned-pro, Daniel Jones was selected by the New York Giants at No. 6 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Duke's current quarterback, Quentin Harris is coming off the performance of his life. Harris completed 30-of-42 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns over North Carolina A&T. He also ran the ball 13 times for 86 yards and an additional touchdown.
The Middle Tennessee defense should provide some stiffer competition for Harris, but those numbers are jaw-dropping.
Blue Raider safety Reed Blankenship is coming off a C-USA Defensive Player of the Week performance with nine tackles, two interceptions and a blocked extra-point against Tennessee State.
Duke opened as a 6-point favorite in this weekend's contest.
While Duke visiting Middle Tennessee is huge, the Blue Raiders finding a way to beat the Blue Devils on Saturday would be enormous for the program.