The past two times Duke has traveled to Lane Stadium, the Blue Devils have left with a victory including a 45-43 four-overtime win over Virginia Tech in 2015. This year, the Hokies are looking to end that home losing streak against Duke as heavy favorites. However, there is the temptation for the Hokies to overlook Duke with Miami looming while Duke will likely approach this as their biggest game left this season.
On paper, the Hokies are clear favorites, but this game has the potential to be trickier than expected. With that said, here are our picks for the Hokies and Duke.
Virginia Tech comes into this game as the heavy favorite against Duke and rightfully so. However, the Blue Devils will be fired up for this game, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Duke make this game more competitive than expected. On top of that, the poor weather could be an issue for an offense that has an average rushing attack.
Josh Jackson and the Hokies’ offense may have issues pushing the ball down the field, but the Hokies have built a strong quick passing attack that shouldn’t be very limited by the weather. Look for Brad Cornelsen to run some quick passes, and some screens to get the ball into space and away from Duke’s a talented group of linebackers led by Joe Giles-Harris.
The Hokies will need Travon McMillian and the VT backfield to get the ground game going against a Duke rush defense that is only giving up 3.9 yards per carry. The Hokies will need to get their ground game going, especially given the weather. Though McMillian has claimed a larger share of the carries, the Hokies will definitely work in Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease with both healthy and able to bring some unique skills to the table.
Daniel Jones has regressed this year with his passer rating ranking 114th in the nation while completing only 54.5% of his passes. This is a nightmare matchup for Jones going against a VT defense that leads the nation in opposing completion percentage (45.3%). Combine that with the weather and this is a recipe for disaster for Jones. However, Jones has shown some mobility and you can expect that David Cutcliffe will give Jones the freedom to use his legs to his advantage.
While the defense is the strength of this team, Duke does have some playmakers. The Blue Devils have a strong tandem of RBs in Shaun Wilson and Britain Brown who are both averaging at least 5.5 yards per carry. However, the Hokies have one of America’s best rush defenses and have been especially good at shutting down traditional running games.
If you’re looking for an x-factor, it’s Greg Stroman. When the weather is poor, special teams can make a difference and the Hokies have a special teams x-factor in Stroman. Stroman has been one of the best punt returners in America this season with 2 touchdowns along with being one of only two players with over 300 return yards from punts. Stroman has become a dynamic threat on punt returners with the talent to break away for a touchdown at any moment.
Virginia Tech is the better team, but Duke will keep this game interesting with a strong defense that will slow the Hokies’ rushing attack. However, the Hokies will score some points while VT’s defense will have another dominant performance almost getting their third shutout of the season. While this game will be close for a long stretch, the game will never be in doubt with the Hokies comfortably beating Duke.
Pick: #13 Virginia Tech 21, Duke 3
After taking ACC Rival North Carolina to the woodshed last week, the #13 Virginia Tech Hokies host another Coastal Division opponent in the Duke Blue Devils. While Duke is a much more formidable opponent than UNC, the Hokies still come into this matchup as heavy favorites.
Expect Virginia Tech to perform beyond their expectations in this game. The offense has been clicking lately, with Sean Savoy and Eric Kumah emerging as real threats in the passing game. Jackson has been efficient all season, and now with legit targets not named Cam Phillips, he will only get better. Duke has one of the top run defenses in the country, so the Hokies will need Jackson to do so.
However, Duke is not the only team in this matchup with a strong run defense. The Hokies have been suffocating opponents lately, and the Lunch Pail Defense is as good as it’s been in the last five years. Duke has very little offensive firepower, and Ricky Walker, the Edmunds brothers and the rest of this powerful defensive unit will be looking to exploit that.
I expect the Hokies to start slow on offense like normal, but by the 2nd half will be firing on all cylinders while the Duke offense struggles to get any points against Bud Foster’s unit.
Pick: #13 Virginia Tech 38, Duke 0
A week ago, I predicted Virginia Tech to only score 35 points and I couldn’t have been any more wrong as the Hokies put up 59 in the victory. The offense was clicking on every literal cylinder and many players contributed on that side of the football.
Duke, compared to UNC, is a better team at the moment, in large part to the fact that the Tar Heels had numerous injuries a week ago. David Cutcliffe is a well-respected coach and will have his team ready, as he’s won his last two games in Lane Stadium. It has been reported that this week, Cutcliffe has been more vocal and involved in practices leading up to the showdown tonight.
I think the weather will have a big impact on this game and will make a difference. If it’s pouring and it’s hard to pass, expect Travon McMillan to have a great game. I’m taking Virginia Tech 31-17 over Duke.