Duke (5-2) at Virginia Tech (6-1)
Oct. 26, 3:30, ESPNU
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Virginia Tech made good use of its first of two bye weeks this season, mapping out the second-half of the year. Ranked No. 14 in the initial BCS standings, the Hokies have won six straight games, including the last three over fellow ACC members. They’ve got this week’s game with Duke and next week’s trip to Boston College before taking on Miami on Nov. 9 in the Coastal Division game of the year. Without any attention, the Blue Devils are standing on the brink of their second straight bowl game under David Cutcliffe. The coach has his kids believing they can win, copping three straight, including Saturday’s rally in Charlottesville from a 22-0 deficit. The Hokies have won 12 straight in this series, and they’ve never lost to Duke in Blacksburg.
Why Duke Might Win: The Blue Devils won’t score a lot of points this Saturday. Of course, it might not require a lot of points to shock this Virginia Tech team. The Hokies rank 110th in the country in total offense, and they’re meager 23-point scoring average has been bolstered by the defense and special teams. Duke has been far more potent with the ball, scoring at least 35 points in each of the last four games. The Devils are a little more balanced than recent editions, getting ground contributions from Josh Snead and Jela Duncan to support the passing of Anthony Boone. Led by Jamison Crowder, four different receivers have caught at least three touchdown passes.
Why Virginia Tech Might Win: This isn’t just the best defense that Duke will face all year. It’s actually one of the defenses in the FBS, period. The Hokies are suffocating all comers, holding them to 2.5 yards per carry and a completion rate below 50%. Well-rested, with an extra week to prepare for the Blue Devils, Virginia Tech won’t be fooled by the passing of Boone. It’ll pressure relentlessly with ends James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Dadi Nicolas, while corner Kyle Fuller and Brandon Facyson lock down Crowder & Co.
Who To Watch Out For: Virginia Tech remains offensively challenged, especially in the red zone, a situation that doesn’t appear likely to change in 2013. In Game 7 versus Pitt, the Hokies went the final 50 minutes without reaching the end zone, leaning instead on four Cody Journell field goals.
- The Duke defense has gotten some solid individual performances so far in 2013. DE Kenny Anunike and S Jeremy Cash, for instance. They’ve helped solidify the first and last lines of defense, respectively, while making cases for a spot on the All-ACC team.
- The Hokies want to pound away at the modestly-sized front seven of Duke, running 216-pound RB Trey Edmunds and 254-pound QB Logan Thomas. It’s off play-action that Thomas is likely to find receivers Demitri Knowles, Willie Byrn and Joshua Stanford.
What Will Happen: As long as the Virginia Tech offense is sputtering, the team will be vulnerable against everyone. However, as the long as the D is putting opponents in a stranglehold, the Hokies will continue to survive. Duke can be dangerous, but not so much at Lane Stadium against a Tech team that’s had an extra week to prepare and recharge the batteries.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 29 … Duke 13
Line: Virginia Tech -13.5 – O/U: 46.5