Duke (5-1) at Virginia Tech (3-3)
Oct. 13, 12:30, ACC Network
Here’s The Deal: When Duke and Virginia Tech hook up in Blacksburg, only the colors and the logos will differentiate the two. The records and the standings surely will not. The Blue Devils and the Hokies have swapped roles in 2012, with the latter sinking quickly and the former surging into ACC relevance. At 5-1, Duke is off to its best start since 1994, which also happens to be the last time the program bowled. The Devils have taken four straight, capped by last Saturday’s rout of Virginia without injured QB Sean Renfree. A win at Lane Stadium would serve notice that David Cutcliffe’s upstarts are improbable Coastal Division contenders. This just isn’t going to be Virginia Tech’s year. The wheels have come off for the Hokies, who slipped to .500 with an embarrassing 48-34 loss to North Carolina. Ranked and heavily-favored to win the division when the season began, Tech is playing as if its 19-year postseason streak might be in jeopardy.
Why Duke Might Win: Whether it’s Renfree or young Anthony Boone at the controls, the Blue Devils are showing that they can move the ball despite the circumstances and hurdles. Not only have they been held under 34 points just once all season, but the Hokies D has been repeatedly exposed when facing opponents from BCS conferences. Duke continues to be fueled by a passing game that looks to receivers Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder for a spark, but is also getting plenty of support from an O-line that’s allowed just four sacks. The Virginia Tech pass rush, on the other hand, has been non-existent, allowing opponents to dominate at the line of scrimmage.
Why Virginia Tech Might Win: Is this the week that the Hokies offense locates some rhythm and consistency? It could be considering the Blue Devils, while improved, can still be spotty and overmatched on this side of the ball. Virginia Tech will continue to lean on QB Logan Thomas, who has been erratic, but still possesses the big arm and light feet to put this team on his shoulders. In Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller, Thomas has access to a pair of next-level receivers with which to exploit the Duke defensive backfield. Redshirt freshman Demitri Knowles has also been heating up, giving the passing game a slew of different options.
What To Watch: Out For: Somewhat lost in the offense’s outburst is the fact that the Duke defense has been playing surprisingly well to boot. Since getting whacked in Week 2 by Stanford, the Blue Devils have stabilized against lesser competition. Now, they’ll try to remain feisty against a more talented attack. The team is a respectable fourth in ACC total D, spearheaded by the play of ends Kenny Anunike and Dezmond Johnson, and DBs Walt Canty and Ross Cockrell. Canty and Cockrell are two of the three Blue Devils who’ve already been named ACC Defensive Back of the Week.
What Will Happen: This is not your usual Duke—or Virginia Tech—team. Still, history can be a nasty foe. The Blue Devils have lost 11 straight to the Hokies dating back to 1981, and Blacksburg is still no joke. If Duke was ever going to exorcise its demons, this would be the year to do it. Instead, Tech will summon the energy to battle back from its recent failures against Cincinnati and North Carolina to hold off a resurgent Devils program. Led by a big afternoon from Thomas, the Hokies will play their best game in weeks to maintain some degree of normalcy in the ACC Coastal.
CFN Prediction: Virginia Tech 32 … Duke 24