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Duke Preview and Prediction

That was a stinker in the 757 last week. Plain and simple. When you show up to a road game with no focus or motivation, that’s what’ll happen to you. It’s surprising that it happened considering Justin Fuente’s constantly preaches the 1-0 mentality. I saw a 0-1 mentality last weekend. Turn the page and move on to the next week.

The Hokies face their biggest test so far this season with Duke. Duke is a surprising 4-0 this season. Maybe we all shouldn’t be too surprised considering Duke has had a solid football program for a number of years. This is a well-coached team that will not beat themselves. They play disciplined football and take care of the ball. The Hokies will have their hands full this week.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ Rank: 53rd
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 38th
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 72nd
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 4th

Duke

Overall S&P+ Rank: 27th
Offensive S&P+ Rank: 42nd
Defensive S&P+ Rank: 31st
Special Teams S&P+ Rank: 11th

That Hokies defensive rank. Ouch. Not very Bud Foster-y. The Hokies are going to need to step up in a big way to stop Duke’s potent offense. They will likely be going up against Quentin Harris. Which is a good thing because injured starting QB Daniel Jones was completing passes at a 74.4% completion percentage before he got injured. That would be bad consider what we saw from Virginia Tech’s secondary last week. Guys to look out for on Duke’s offense is Quentin Harris rushing from the quarterback position, Brittain Brown at running back and TJ Rahming at wide receiver. The Hokies need to also be aware of Johnathan Lloyd as a deep threat against the Hokies young secondary.

If the Hokies want to be successful against Duke’s defense, they are going to need to get their rushing game going. If there is a vulnerability on Duke’s defense it’s stopping the run. This is a game where the Hokies run game will need to open up the downfield passing game.  The Hokies need to try to establish the run early and often. Something they were not able to do last week against ODU. Ryan Willis will need to use his arm and his legs this week to give Duke’s defense trouble. He also need to take care of the ball. If the Hokies turn the ball over, Duke’s offense will make them pay for it.

After three games watching Virginia Tech, I still have no idea about this team. They’ve played three objectively bad teams. Two good results and one really bad one. What we do know is that this defense has issues. They are young and they are going to make mistakes. How quickly they are able to remedy those errors week-to-week will define how successful this season can be. How this team bounces back against Duke will be telling for how the season will play out. Going by the numbers, Duke looks like the better team even if they do field their backup QB. They are like the Hokies but with a better defense (by the numbers). This is a game that could easily go either way but since there are so many unknowns in this game, you go with what the numbers tell you. Duke by 10.

Prediction: Duke 38, Virginia Tech 28 

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies put their best performance of the year together against UNC. They picked a good time to do it with all the #NC2VT recruits in town. As time goes on, I think you will see the Hokies make deeper in-roads into North Carolina. I think the game last weekend already helped with a couple of Virginia Tech’s top targets.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 17th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 59th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 47th

Duke

Overall S&P+ ranking: 79th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 88th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 55th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 95th

Under David Cutcliffe, Duke is always a tough out. They are tough. They are disciplined. And they play good defense. No 59-7 box scores this week.

Where Duke is struggling this year is in the passing game. Daniel Jones has not been able to find the success he had in his freshman year. You can call this season his sophomore slump. Expect to see the Hokies focus on shutting down the run and forcing Daniel Jones to beat them with his arm. Something he has struggled with so far this year.

Duke has an effective but not explosive running attack. The Hokies boast the 16th ranked rushing defense in the country. They should be able to slow down the Duke rushing attack and force the offense to come thru the arms and legs of Daniel Jones. I am more concerned about his legs than arm. Although, he only has 217 rushing yards for the season.

Where is Hokies will have issues in this game is on offense. They will struggle to put long drives together against this Duke defense. If the Hokies are going to have success, they are going to need to find a ground game. Duke’s defense is a little more susceptible to the rushing attack than the passing game. The Hokies will need to find ways to get their running backs involved in the gameplan.

At this point, Duke is the third best team the Hokies have played. This won’t be a cake walk like UNC but expect a game like the BC game. The Hokies will struggle to move the ball on offense and the defense will make life hard on Duke. This is a game where it would be a good if the Hokies can get off to a good start offensively. This game being played in the rain makes me nervous for sloppy conditions that can cause turnovers which could hurt the VT offense. But all things being equal – I like the Hokies offense, defense and special teams over Duke’s.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Duke 10

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies were finally able to break the curse of Heinz Field. It took a gritty effort and for the first time in a long time, the offense had to pick up Bud Foster’s defense. That is not something that happened often in the Beamer era. In big games on the road, only one thing matters and that’s winning. The Hokies found a way to win at Heinz Field and now are in the driver’s seat for the Coastal division.

The word of the week is focus. Top 25 teams get upset every week by unranked opponents. There are no easy wins in the Power 5. Teams need to show up focused. It’s not easy to come off a big win on the road then come ready to play the next week. Earlier this season, the Hokies notched a huge win against UNC then put up a dud against Syracuse the next week. Let’s hope the Hokies learned from that experience.

Virginia Tech

Overall S&P+ ranking: 13th
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 41st
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 8th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 19th

Duke

Overall S&P+ ranking: 72nd
Offensive S&P+ ranking: 88th
Defensive S&P+ ranking: 44th
Special Teams S&P+ ranking: 108th

On paper, the Hokies have a significant advantage in this matchup. Duke is without their starting QB, Thomas Sirk, he was lost for the season in August. They are also without their top running back, Jela Duncan. This is a team that should struggle to move the ball against the Hokies’ defense. They also have a quarterback who has thrown nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns. This seems like an offense that Bud Foster’s group should be able to slow down.

Duke can give teams trouble when they are on defense. They are good at limiting teams thru the air but have been prone to give up the big play from time to time. The Hokies are going to have to try to stretch the Duke defense by going deep to one of their three deep threats. Like they did against Pitt. The Duke defense is also good at limiting teams in the red zone, which the Hokies struggled with last week. They will have to be better this week.

Duke is a team to worry about because David Cutcliffe teams do not beat themselves. Every FBS game that Duke has played this year was decided a margin of 14 points or less. Duke does not get blown out. They don’t commit many penalties and play solid defense. They are not the type of team you can expect to walk over.

If there are two areas the Hokies can look to turn the game, it’s turnovers and special teams. This may be a game where the Hokies can show off a little new-look Beamerball. Daniel Jones has thrown 9 interceptions this year. Duke is ranked 125th in the nation with 12 lost fumbles. And they have not been particularly strong on special teams (see S&P+ ranking above).  They particularly struggle on punt coverage and converting field goals. Keep an eye out for turnovers and special teams in this game.

This game will not be a cakewalk. Duke is a legit team and can absolutely upset the Hokies. The same way Syracuse did. If the Hokies show up focused like the did against Miami and Pitt, they should be fine and roll to a comfortable win. If they start slow or sleepwalk like they did against Syracuse, they could be in trouble. I do think there will be a bit of an emotional letdown after the Pitt game. I still think the Hokies win and pull away in the 4th quarter.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Duke 17