The Virginia Tech Hokies enter November at 6-2 and 4-1 in the ACC, meaning that they are not only bowl eligible but they are also in control of their own destiny in the Coastal for the first time in a while.
Today, the Hokies face the Duke Blue Devils who haven’t won an ACC game yet this year but have pulled off an upset at Notre Dame, which doesn’t look as impressive as it did then.
Virginia Tech is rightfully double-digit favorites, but Duke will be ready to challenge so take a look at our keys to the game for the Hokies.
1. Don’t Overlook Duke
The Hokies got caught in a classic trap game in October when they travelled on the road against a Syracuse team hungry to get a big win. The Hokies just didn’t show up with enough energy while Syracuse’s very up-tempo offense had the Hokies’ defense breathing heavy and worn them down.
This week, the Hokies must learn their lesson against a well-coached Duke team ready to play the spoiler role in the Coastal and try to keep their slim bowl hopes alive.
Virginia Tech and Duke have both pulled off an upset against the other over the past few years but the gap between the two teams this year is as big as it has been in a while. However, the Hokies can’t afford to sleepwalk into Durham and expect to get a win against a David Cutcliffe-led team that will be absolutely ready to go for this game.
The Hokies should have a lot of fans in attendance to help get some extra energy that could also help them if they start out sleepwalking a little into this game. If they can show up with plenty of energy, this game will likely get ugly.
2. Contain the mobile QB
Virginia Tech has always had their issues with containing the mobile quarterback and while Daniel Jones isn’t a prolific running quarterback, Jones has shown that he can make some things happen with his legs with a little under 300 rushing yards on the season. Virginia Tech’s defense will have to be aware of this threat and do their best to not only contain Jones but also bring him down when they get the chance.
Duke may try to create situations where Jones can make some plays with his legs given that the redshirt freshman will be facing the toughest pass defense that he has faced all season. David Cutcliffe knows the issues that Bud Foster’s defense has had in the past with mobile quarterbacks and will look to attack that part of Virginia Tech’s defense.
Foster and his defense may be forced to run some zone because of this while Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds will have to be alert and play a semi or true spy role throughout the game to keep Jones in check. If the Hokies can keep Jones from escaping the pocket and making plays with his legs, this game becomes much harder for Duke.
Today, it will be critical for the Hokies to shut down the mobile quarterback and make a young QB try to beat them through the air.
3. Establish The Running Game
Virginia Tech struggled to get a true rushing attack going last week with wide receiver Cam Phillips leading the way in rushing yards last week thanks to having some success on jet sweeps. However, the Hokies’ offense was able to take advantage of a Pittsburgh defense that had a weak secondary and didn’t really make any adjustments.
This week, the Hokies face a much more talented secondary but also a team that is not as good in the front 7. For the Hokies, they have to establish the rushing attack to get their offense to maximize what they can do led by Travon McMillian who had a very bad game last week with 6 carries for -3 rushing yards.
This week, McMillian faces a Duke rush defense that is 70th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game while also giving up 4.3 yards per carry. McMillian has the potential to have a big game this week after having an awful game last week, and the Hokies should definitely try to establish the running game against a Duke pass defense led by senior Breon Borders whose future is in the NFL.
Expect McMillian to bounce back this week in a big way while the Hokies will also likely run some jet sweeps with Cam Phillips after having success with it last week while Henri Murphy could also get a couple chances on it. If the Hokies can get their rushing attack going, Virginia Tech should have one of their best offensive outputs of the season.