He said it's the most important game of the opening stretch -- more important that the first game against nearby Elon and the third game against defending national champion Alabama -- because it's a conference game and it's a road game, not to mention one of Duke's traditional rivals. And for two teams that missed the postseason a year ago, it could be a defining game for the winner and signal a major uphill battle this season for the loser.
"I want them to value every game," Cutcliffe said, while attaching a significant amount of importance to this clash with Wake Forest. "You get a leg up when you get a win in this one."
Cutcliffe said he's familiar with early games that he said can help mold a season, referring to his time as a Tennessee assistant coach and the annual September matchup with Florida in the Southeastern Conference. While the Duke-Wake Forest game won't hold nearly the national appeal, it's crucial for these teams.
"Regardless of the score, we had better leave Winston-Salem a better football team," Cutcliffe said.
--The Blue Devils are aiming for their first 2-0 start since the 1998 season. That marked the last time Duke opened the season with a Southern Conference opponent, beating Western Carolina and following it with a road triumph against Northwestern. This year's first victory came against Southern Conference member Elon.
--This matchup with Wake Forest is the second meeting between the teams in a three-game span because they closed the 2009 regular season against each other. Duke players said they had a chance to review Wake Forest videotape from last year while preparing for Elon because Wake Forest was Elon's only FBS opponent in 2009. But coach David Cutcliffe said the Demon Deacons are significantly different on offense than a year ago.
--Duke has a 10-game losing streak to Wake Forest.
Duke leads Wake Forest 53-35-2 (last meeting, 2009, 45-34 Wake Forest.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE:
The Blue Devils like what they saw from QB Sean Renfree in the opener, but some of his receivers might not run as freely against Wake Forest's defense as they did against Elon. Coach David Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils were able to exploit areas against Elon because of favorable mismatches and that provided some room on underneath routes. The running game took time to get up to speed in the opener, but the Blue Devils won't want to wait until late in the game for that to develop.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE:
The Blue Devils put considerable pressure on Elon quarterback Scott Riddle in the first game, but some of that pursuit might be slowed because Wake Forest won't be as one-dimensional as Duke's first opponent. Tighter coverage from cornerbacks will be one area addressed after inconsistent play in the first game. Coach David Cutcliffe counted 15 big-yardage plays for Elon and said that number needs to be reduced in future games.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"We played a lot of people (on defense). I didn't think we played particularly well from an assignment standpoint. Most of them were errors that can be corrected and that's a positive." -- Coach David Cutcliffe on improvements he expects from the first game to the second game.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME:
Duke at Wake Forest, Sept. 11 -- Duke was a late-game missed field goal away from winning in its past two trips to Winston-Salem, including the second game of the 2006 season. Two years ago, Duke's late missed kick sent the game into overtime, with Wake Forest prevailing.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Duke will need to limit Wake Forest's running game and see if the Demon Deacons' uncertain quarterback situation can work in its favor. Wake Forest has run the ball well against Duke in recent seasons and the Blue Devils weren't tested much in facing the run in the opener against Elon. Wake Forest is still trying to figure out some things along its offensive front, so that might give Duke's young defensive line a chance to make some plays. But the Blue Devils must be aware that Wake Forest might be prone to use the quarterback as a ball carrier more often than in the past.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
S Matt Daniels -- He said he embraces facing passing teams because it challenges the secondary. The junior made his second career interception in the opener against Elon. He was also second on the team with six tackles.
TE Brandon King -- He's coming off an opening game where he tied a career-high with four receptions. The redshirt senior also had four catches in 2006 against North Carolina. King is considered a backup, but he has a prominent role in several of Duke's formations.
WR Austin Kelly -- He didn't start the opener against Elon because he had missed significant preseason practice time with ailments, but he's expected to be one of the focal points of the passing attack. Of his five career touchdown receptions, two have come against Wake Forest.
--RB Jay Hollinsworth, a junior, has two career rushing touchdowns and they've both come against in-state competition, two years ago at Wake Forest and this season vs. Elon. Hollingsworth's 10 carries against Elon in the opener marked a rather heavy workload because he had only two games with double-digit attempts last year.
--LB August Campbell recorded one of Duke's two sacks in the opener. He's a redshirt freshman despite playing in three games in 2009 before a shoulder injury ended his season and he was granted a hardship waiver. So the Wake Forest game will be his third career road game, but he didn't record a tackle at either Army or Kansas last year.
--WR Tony Foster, a redshirt sophomore, made his first career start in the opener against Elon but he didn't have a reception. He landed on the first-string unit for the game primarily because he made it through the full preseason, while expected starter WR Austin Kelly, who played extensively in the second half, was sidelined for much of the previous month with an undisclosed early. Foster was mostly a special teams player in 2009.