Hokies Football: #23 Duke at Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

Gameday and Homecoming have arrived in Blacksburg, and the centerpiece of the weekend is almost here as the Virginia Tech Hokies take on the #23 Duke Blue Devils. The Hokies may be 3-4, but are actually favorites in this matchup by oddsmakers in Las Vegas against a ranked team.

The Hokies could use a win today badly to help their chances of extending their bowl appearance streak to 23 with only one home game after this weekend. A loss today will put the Hokies behind the eight ball in trying to extend their bowl streak to 23 straight seasons.

Michael Brewer will make his return to the starting lineup this week after making a cameo appearance last week in which he made some good throws, but also showed some rust with a late interception that sealed the victory for Miami. Brewer brings a lot more touch to the passing game, and Hokie fans likely can expect a much more complex passing attack with the senior quarterback back.

This week, Virginia Tech will face a tough Duke defense led by safety Jeremy Cash. Cash is one of the top defensive backs and possibly the best safety in all of college football. Cash has proven to be a great force around the line of scrimmage as he leads Duke in both tackles for loss( 11.5) and sacks(1.5) though Duke has not proven to have an elite pass rusher.

The Hokies will need the offensive line to keep improving and have a strong game in this matchup. Travon McMillian has been qute impressive in the last two games, and seems due to have a game of over 100 rushing yards soon after being on his way to getting to triple-digits before a late fumble caused him to come a yard short.

The Hokies will also need to protect Brewer well as the senior quarterback’s collarbone is still likely not fully healed. Brewer took a couple hits last week including a cheap shot that should have led to an ejection for Miami, but the Hokies do not want to have their QB taking too many hits this week even if he was okay after two big hits last week.

The Virginia Tech pass defense will need a bounce-back week after Brad Kaaya made “DBU” look not so good without All-American CB Kendall Fuller. The good news is that Duke is not nearly as good of a passing offense as Miami, and is built as more of a run-first offense with QB Thomas Sirk.

Andrew Motuapuaka and the Virginia Tech rush defense will need to step up in containing Sirk this week who has shown a lot of mobility this season. Sirk is actually the leading rusher for the Blue Devils, and David Cutcliffe will definitely look to see if the Hokies can step up and contain a mobile quarterback or not.

If you’re looking for an x-factor, Bucky Hodges is the guy to keep an eye on. The redshirt sophomore tight end got off to a slow start to the season, but has been playing better and better every single week. With Michael Brewer back, Hodges will be a bigger matchup nightmare for Duke, and is the type of red-zone target that Brewer knows how to use effectively.

No one should be surprised if Hodges has a big game today even against a tough Duke defense.

This has the makings of a low-scoring, tough game between a Duke team likely with a chip on their shoulder given that they are underdogs despite being ranked and a Virginia Tech team that needs a victory. The fans are desperate to see a disappointing season not end as disappointing as it seems like it might and a win today would help a lot.

This game is going to come down to the fourth quarter and who can get the ball in the end-zone in the red-zone. A healthy Michael Brewer will be big for the Hokies as they pull off the upset led by a solid game from Brewer and a productive rushing attack led by Travon McMillian while the Virginia Tech defense will make the plays they need to in the red zone.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, #23 Duke 13

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