CHARLOTTE — When Clemson visits Duke to open the 2023 football season on Labor Day Night in Durham, N.C., it is not going to be the cake walk some might think.
First off, the Blue Devils are coming off a nine-win season in 2022, just the seventh in the program’s history. Secondly, they return 17 starters from last year’s squad, including quarterback Riley Leonard.
And thirdly, they have been preparing for the Tigers the entire off-season.
“Being on that national stage is what we want Duke Football to be,” Duke head coach Mike Elko said Wednesday from the 2023 ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin Hotel in Uptown. “Obviously, Clemson has been the gold standard in this conference. We have not shied away from that this entire off-season.
“They have done so many things to kind of carry the ACC and be our representative for so long, but we want to get our seat at the table. And if we want to get talked about in that light, those are the games we are going to have to play.”
Like most years since Dabo Swinney took over the Clemson program in 2008, the Tigers will be one of the favorites to win the ACC. Clemson has won seven of the last eight ACC Championships and played in six College Football Playoff since 2015, while winning two national championships.
The Tigers, the defending ACC Champions, are used to playing in these types of games. Duke, not so much lately.
“To be able to play that game in Durham, in front of a packed house on Monday night with everybody watching, that is what you want,” Elko said. “I think that is what our players want, that is what our kids want and that is what our program wants.
“It is not to say that we do not have a ton of respect for who (the Tigers) are and what they do, but it is an opportunity that we are really looking forward to.”
It will be an opportunity for Duke to prove it belongs with and can beat the big boys of college football.
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