Duke Q&A with Mike Kline from DukeFootballBlog.com

You can follow Mike Kline on Twitter at @MikeKlineDSB and read his blog at DukeFootballBlog.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

So far I’ve been pretty pleased with Duke’s season, though that loss to Northwestern seems less and less impressive as the Wildcats have fallen off the last few weeks. This is the best defense I’ve seen in Durham probably ever. The defense is fast and aggressive and much better than advertised. The offense is, however, not and have struggled against Power 5 conference teams. Quarterback Thomas Sirk has struggled with accuracy on the deep ball and decision making and the running game has been sporadic. There are weapons there just not consistent.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

I expect a close if not ugly game that could come down to a possession or two either way. In short similar to last years game. It will be a battle.

Do you still see Lane Stadium as a “tough place to play”?

Lane Stadium is one of the best venues in the ACC. I’ve been there and the atmosphere and tradition is second to none in the conference. It is still a big time advantage for the Hokies against most team.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

Right now as much as I’d like to pick Duke I think the Blue Devils lose a game or two along the way and I think this game could be one of them. I feel like, as much as I hate to say it, that North Carolina and Pitt have been the class of the Coastal to date. That could change in a weeks time, as per the usual in the Coastal. I think the division comes down to those three Duke, Pitt, and Carolina. Whoever has the strongest finish wins.

What is your prediction for the game?

Like I said earlier, I expect a very close game, probably low scoring. I think if Duke can muster enough offense they will win the game with their solid defense, if Virginia Tech can keep the Duke offense in check and get some opportunistic play on offense or special teams they could squeak out with the victory. If I have to make a prediction I’ll go homer and say Duke wins 17-10, but wouldn’t be shocked if the score were the other way around. This game feels like a push to me.

Miami Q&A with StateoftheU.com

You can follow Cam Underwood @TheStateOfTheU on Twitter or visit his website at StateOfTheU.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

It’s hard for me to feel good about this team. We’re talented, sure, but we’re not seeing the success that I think we should reasonably see in year 5 of the Al Golden regime. I like what we have at the offensive skill positions, but the offensive line needs serious improvement. The defense seems to be good on some plays and bad on others, and the defensive line leaves much to be desired. Overall, at 3-2 through 5 games, I’d say the way I feel about this team is “blah”.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

My expectation going into the VT game is to see a tightly contested game. Both teams are capable of winning the Coastal, and the first step towards that is a win on Saturday.

From Miami, I’d hope to see some fight. I’d hope to see some of the elite level playmaking we saw against Florida State, and improvements in the deficient areas.

From VT, I have no idea what to expect. The QB situation is unknown, and but the defensive talent is high. VT has played some good games and some bad ones, just like Miami has. I’m interested to see which version of each team shows up on Saturday afternoon.

Last year, Miami struggled after the FSU game, do you expect the Canes to bounce back better this season?

I do not expect the Canes to bounce back better than in previous years following a loss to FSU. The last 2 years after losing to the Seminoles, Miami has gone 2-8. What has demonstrably changed from years past to make me think there will be improvement to that? Nothing.

So, no, I do not expect us to be a better team after this loss. I do not expect us to win the Coastal division. I do, however, expect us to win some games as we head through the rest of October and November, but there will be plenty of losses (including at least 1 game we “should” win) between here and the end of the season.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal division shaking out?

I see Duke as the best team in the Coastal, flawed though they are, and would be shocked if they don’t win the division this year.

What is your prediction for the game?

My prediction for Saturday is Miami 27, Virginia Tech 23.

Pittsburgh Q&A with @CzarOfPgh

You can follow Zach on Twitter at @CzarOfPgh.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

As has been the case with basically every Pitt team I’ve watched, I have really no clue what to make of them. There have been some very positive signs.

The defense, in particular the pass defense, has been night and day different than last year. Last year’s philosophy on defense suited Paul Chryst’s conservative personality quite well: bend but don’t break. Unfortunately, the talent level just wasn’t good enough to avoid breaking. This year, Pat Narduzzi has already implemented a tough, attacking defense. Starting cornerback Avonte Maddox has had a phenomenal season so far, and last year’s top recruit in Pennsylvania Jordan Whitehead has already seized the starting strong safety spot and is among the team leaders in tackles.

On the downside, the run defense is still a work in progress. A large part of this is talent. Paul Chryst failed to recruit the d-line and linebacker positions very well. Still, it’s obvious that the new more aggressive scheme will pay off once the talent level begins to catch up in a few years.

More troubling, the offense is suddenly a mess. Sure the loss of James Conner to injury and 60% of last year’s starting OL to either the NFL or season-long injury has been a major problem. A bigger problem, at least in my opinion, is a lack of a real identity. It’s not clear to me what the offense wants to be. At least with Paul Chryst you knew he wanted a power running attack. Thus far, Jim Chaney seems very hesitant to try to run inside, possibly due to the OL concerns. The problem is that the outside running game hasn’t been so great either. There have been a lot of East-West plays that never really develop. To go with those issues, Chaney quite obviously never trusted Chad Voytik to do… whatever it is Chaney wants to do. Nate Peterman has looked like he can make a lot of accurate throws, but he’s also been fairly turnover prone. I’m eager to see the offense develop into something with a real identity rather than random elements tossed together to see what works.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

I expect a fairly ugly game, especially if the weather is as expected. I know VT’s defense didn’t look like the elite unit it was expected to be against ECU, but I don’t think Pitt can do (or wants to do) the kinds of things on offense that ECU does. I’m terrified that VT’s talented defensive line is going to eat Pitt’s offensive line for lunch. Jim Chaney is going to want to establish the run one way or another, and that is going to be a tough order. Even if the weather were ideal, I’m not sure how well Pitt could pass against a great secondary and strong pass rush. In poor weather, it might be impossible. Unfortunately, I think a good passing game that keeps Tyler Boyd and the tight ends involved is going to be the best chance Pitt has to reliably move the ball.

When VT has the ball, I hope to see an improved rushing defense. VT has a lot of talent at running back, and Pitt is going to need to hold their own in order to have any chance of winning. If the passing defense can keep up its improved play over last year, Pitt’s success is going to come down to how well they can stop the run.  In an ugly game in wet weather, I can’t really say that either team has a clear advantage.

Heinz Field is a house of horrors for VT, how do you feel about Pitt coming to Lane Stadium?

To be honest, the thought of coming into a night game at Lane would terrify me. I want no part of that. Luckily, this year’s game is at noon. It’s hard to think of any stadium that’s truly intimidating for a noon game. Couple that with the expected wet, cold weather, and it’s hard to imagine much of a home field advantage for VT.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal Division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

From the looks of it, Duke is going to be the class of the Coastal. They’re really playing great defense, and if recent history carries any weight, the offense will get going pretty soon too. They’re capable of easily winning the Coastal outright. Miami should be right up there with them, but it’s hard to have any faith in an Al Golden-coached team. They could easily collapse and lose several games that they shouldn’t. I also wouldn’t write off Georgia Tech either. They were too good last year to look so sloppy this year. I think they’ll still have a respectable finish.

What I am trying to say here is that I think Duke probably wins it but everyone has a good shot of finishing well. Except Virginia.

What is your prediction for the game?

Ugly. Maybe not Mizzou-UConn ugly, but pretty bad. These are two flawed teams that have been forced by injury to reconsider what their strengths are. A noon game in wet weather isn’t going to help them figure it out. I expect Virginia Tech to pull out a victory because they’re more talented on defense. If Pitt can figure out an offensive recipe that works–and it was in the VT game last year that the light bulb went off for the offense–then they have a good chance. Still, VT is the more talented team, so unless they get unlucky in the turnover department, I’d expect VT to win close.

Q&A with ECU Pirate Cannon

You can follow ECU Pirate Cannon on Twitter @ECUPirateCannon and read his monthly feature at eastcarolina.247sports.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

We’re three games into the season and have a 1-2 record. We just suffered our first conference loss (albeit in the other division) in a triple option drubbing at the hands of Navy and we still have quite the out of conference schedule ahead of us as we host your Hokies and travel to Provo to take on BYU in 2 of our next 3 games.

I like what I see out of our QB Blake Kemp who stepped up when our named starter went down with a season ending knee injury 10 days before our first game. He’s a good leader who isn’t rattled easily. Early on he may have been a bit cautious with the ball, but he’s settled in nicely and can be credited as part of the reason we had a chance at taking down the Gators in the Swamp. Two offensive juggernauts of this team that you cannot ignore are WR Isaiah Jones and TE Rob Gronk… err… Bryce Williams. Honestly, I’m not sure I have a perfect bead on our RB game yet. That aspect of our game needs to show me more against mightier foes to get me feeling more comfortable. Our once great rushing D struggled a bit against Towson (a better team than their previous year’s results may have you believe) and clearly Navy. The defensive backfield might look okay on paper… eh, we’ll just leave it at that. BUT, when the Pirate defense is clicking, as they were a good bit against Florida, they’re a huge asset.

Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve seen most of the pieces necessary to be a good team, now let’s put them together in one game… preferably by, say, this Saturday’s matchup.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

I expect to win. And no disrespect to Virginia Tech, but I always expect to win.

This should be a sold out game as Pirate Nation will be in full force for the 3:30 bout against a fellow P6 foe (see what I did there?) being broadcast on ABC. The energy at kickoff will be electric – your first time visitors to Dowdy-Ficklen should be impressed by our game day atmosphere.

On the defensive side of things, I need our rushing D to step it up. On offense, I’d like us to establish an effective run game again and see a ~60/~40 split by air and by land.

What are your thoughts on the VT-ECU series?

I imagine some of you think that playing ECU is a no win situation, and I’ll never convince that group differently, but I love playing the Hokies. It is my favorite out of state, OOC series that we engage in (true, I might not have a lot to choose from, but I’m considering the likes of WVU and South Carolina, and at this time I can’t think of a replacement I’d like better). Your program is top notch in my book and your fans and game day experience are pretty awesome. In our circles, we use you as the example of what we aim to be. “Give us the chance with the big boys, and we will compete. We can be the next Virginia Tech.” Also, if I can get a bit sappy for a second, one of my favorite moments was our game against y’all in Blacksburg after the shooting. The show of solidarity and appreciation between the universities prior to kickoff was touching. Oh! You also have a nice cannon too (even if you don’t allow him inside your stadium).

What is your prediction for the game?

As a Hokie fan, you may have read what I had to say and you may have seen highlights of our previous games this year and think, this game doesn’t scare you. But your team and fan base are smart enough to not overlook a scrappy ECU team.

A pissed of ECU team + a sound opponent (we love playing up to competition) + a fan base (at home) that needs a solid win = a recipe for Pirate success.

My money is staying in my pocket this week, but my heart says we play inspired ball and win by 7 in a competitive game on both sides of the ball. Call it ECU 28 – Virginia Tech 21. #BOOM!

Purdue Q&A with BoiledSports.com

You can follow @BoiledSports on Twitter and read their blog at BoiledSports.com.

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

Well, so far this season or so far in our lives? Let’s hit the wayback machine for a minute. Joe Tiller took Purdue out of the cellar and made them perennial Big Ten contenders. The glory days for us were Drew Brees and Kyle Orton, with the Boilermakers getting as high as #5 in the nation in 2004. However, it’s been a steady and nauseating decline since then, with Purdue football firmly back in the basement.

Coach Darrell Hazell came in for the 2013 season and while we really like him as a man, he just hasn’t done much on the field yet, with a record of 5-21 – and three of those five victories have been against FCS foes. Purdue is very slowly improving under Hazell, though, so we’re trying to remain optimistic.

Blowing their first game at Marshall has made it tough to envision more than a couple of wins in 2015, though.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

I’ll be honest… we’ve been worried about this game for a while. Not because Virginia Tech is the powerhouse they once were, but because we know even in “down” years, they’re no pushover. I specifically remember watching their rivalry game with UVA last November and despite being the worse record, Tech took it to the Hoos. They always come hard with a ferocious D and that alone wins you games against programs that are struggling.

How do Purdue fans view VT’s program?

I remember talking to my co-editor after last season and looking ahead to this game and his exact words were, “You don’t want any part of Beamer.” Now, I don’t know if that’s how most Purdue fans view VT, but I think that’s how fans who know CFB do. He may not be the Frank Beamer of old, but he’s still a wily veteran and he’s been in every kind of game you can imagine. There is nothing about this Saturday that will concern or intimidate him or, in turn, his team. That’s how we view it and it makes us edgy.

What is your prediction for the game?

Purdue fans know this game is quite important for our program. A win or, at the least, a good showing gives everyone some hope that things are indeed heading in the right direction. There are still some fans out there with pipe dreams of making a bowl game this year – if it has any chance of happening, this one really feels like it needs to be a win. As for us at Boiled Sports, our official “Predicto” comes out on Friday mornings, but my gut feeling is that this one is a loss for Purdue. I don’t think Purdue’s QB, Austin Appleby, will be able to deal with the defensive pressure VT will bring and the Hokies may score a defensive touchdown or two.