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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

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Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have to win this game if they hope to make a bowl this season. A loss would put the Hokies at 3-5 and would mean they would have to finish 3-1 in order to make a bowl. They do not want to put themselves in that position. On paper, this is a game where the Hokies are favored and if they play like they are capable of, they should win this game.

Duke’s offense is even more anemic than the Hokies’ offense. They rely on the running game and a running quarterback (uh oh). Even with the youth in the secondary, the Hokies should be able to limit the Blue Devils’ passing game. The key to this game will be limiting QB Thomas Sirks’ rushing yards and limiting the Duke RBs from getting involved in the passing game. As long as the Hokies’ defense can play disciplined defensive football in these two areas they should be able to limit Duke offensively.

In theory, the Hokies should move the ball better with Michael Brewer behind center but there are a couple of things about this matchup that concern me. Michael Brewer isn’t particularly mobile and Duke likes to show a lot of blitzes and coverages. Michael Brewer needs to be able to recognize the blitzes and get the ball out of his hands quickly. We cannot have a sack fest like we saw against Pitt.

The Hokies would be well served to lean on their running game. They need to feed the ball to Travon McMillian early and often. If he is rushing for 7+ YPC, don’t take the ball out of his hands. The Miami game would’ve gone much differently, if the coaching staff had kept giving Travon the ball.  This will help Michael Brewer and open up the play action passing game. Michael Brewer cannot be successful if he has to drop back on every down against an aggressive Duke defense.

This will be a tough challenge for the Hokies but it is a game that they can win. Let’s hope the team hasn’t packed it in. If they can play smart and disciplined football, they stand a good chance to win this game. This is a game where the defense will have to stand tall in order for the Hokies to win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Duke 10

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.

ACC Predictions

These predictions are also featured on allsportsdiscussion.com here, here and here.

Coastal Predictions

Georgia Tech 8-4 (6-2)
Duke 9-3 (6-2)
Virginia Tech 8-4 (5-3)
Miami 6-6 (4-4)
Pittsburgh 6-6 (4-4)
North Carolina 6-6 (3-5)
Virginia 2-10 (1-7)

Everyone is saying that the division will come down to the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech game on November 12th. I tend to agree but I could see Virginia Tech winning that game with 12 days to prepare but lose three games in the rest of ACC play to still hand the division to Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech definitely has the easier ACC slate only having to face Boston College and NC State from the Atlantic division. Georgia Tech, on the other hand, has to face Clemson and Florida State (yikes!).

I see Duke keeping the momentum going under David Cutcliffe. I think we will continue to see Duke be a thorn in the side of other Coastal teams for years to come. I call them the Stanford of the east. Miami will have another Miami-like season, not bad but not great. Probably not enough to save Al Golden’s job. North Carolina will continue to put up points like usual but I’m not sure I trust that defense to show up. I’m not really sure what to expect from Pitt under new coach Pat Narduzzi. I could see them being really good but more than likely they’ll have an up and down season.

And finally Virginia. I actually feel bad for Virginia. Seems like most have already jumped ship on Mike London’s future there and then they get handed a murderer’s row non-conference schedule (@UCLA, Notre Dame & Boise State). Not good.

Atlantic Predictions

Florida State 11-1 (7-1)
Louisville 10-2 (7-1)
Clemson 10-2 (7-1)
Boston College 7-5 (4-4)
North Carolina State 5-7 (2-6)
Syracuse 3-9 (1-7)
Wake Forest 2-10 (0-8)

Florida State still is one of the most talented teams in the country. They have plenty of talent to choose from and will reload in 2015. They will not, however, go undefeated in 2015. The Atlantic division will be a three team race between Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. Clemson has the best quarterback in the league to go along with an improving defense under Brent Venables.

Louisville’s defense will be good enough to keep them in every game. As long as they can find competent quarterback play, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Boston College will continue to be a tough out for anyone they play but that schedule is brutal. Even with raised expectations, I expect NC State to take a step back. I’m not buying the hype there. Syracuse and Wake Forest are a step below the rest of the division.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, the ACC has more than two good teams! I think the ACC will get some respect this year. Between Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Duke, the ACC has six potential top-25 teams. This is the year to expect the unexpected. Both divisions will have razor thin races going into November. You can look as far as the six games between the teams listed above to decide both divisions. I could even see some crazy tiebreakers go into effect in those division races. It’s been awhile since the league had ranked teams battling it out in each division. Should be an exciting season.

Q&A with Mike Kline from the Duke Sports Blog

You can follow Mike Kline on twitter @MikeKlineDSB

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

So far Duke has either met or exceeded my expectations on the season. Most expected a good team with a good record, but not sure many believed, even with a favorable schedule that they’d be 8-1 and in position to be in the drivers seat in the coastal. Duke is not all things for everyone, but they are a team that believes they can win.  Anthony Boone has been at times very good and the running game has been surprisingly good. Defensively they’ve done well against the pass, but struggled against the run. They are a team with a lot of momentum heading into the Virginia Tech game.

What are your expectations going into the VT game?

Duke has had two back to back games against physical opponents so their could be a combination of fatigue and some bruises to account for when they take on the Hokies. They also have the risk of looking ahead at UNC on the big Thursday night matchup next week so minds could be else where.

The good news for the Blue Devils is that they are at home and after years of being the doormat they believe they can beat anyone.

Virginia Tech has definitely had a down year since beating Ohio State, but the fact is they are still a formidable opponent for Duke and one that they cannot look past.

Who do you think is going to win the Coastal Division?

Right now, unless Duke has a total collapse, I think the Blue Devils will take the Coastal Division as long as they win two of their next three games and get some help in some other games. Obviously if they win out they will take the crown for the second straight year. I just have the feeling this is another special year for the Blue Devils so I think they’ll get the job done.

What is your prediction for the game?

I think this is a game that can go either way but I expect something similar to what we saw between these two teams last year. I think Duke wins a low scoring game, though I don’t count out the Hokies at all. It wouldn’t be shocking if they pulled out the W, but I think Duke wins 21-17.