Virginia Tech vs. #22 Duke By The Numbers Breakdown

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Sep 29, 2018
After suffering an upset loss at Old Dominion, Virginia Tech heads on the road looking for a bounce back win against an undefeated Duke team looking to prove that they are a legitimate ACC Coastal contenders after picking up non-conference wins over Army, Baylor, Northwestern, and NC Central to start the season. With that said, here's our By The Numbers breakdown for Saturday night's ACC showdown.

13: Number of Rushing Yards Steven Peoples Needs for a New Single-Season High

Steven Peoples had the statistical game of his career last week in Norfolk with 20 carries for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns including a career-long 87-yard touchdown run. While Peoples has been the bowling ball that can get first downs in short yardage situations, he's also been able to break out for some significant gains. One of the big things that Peoples has done throughout the first three games is gain an extra yard or 2 on every play, something that has become a trademark of sorts for the senior from Galax. Peoples has also shown that he can be useful as a pass blocker and receiver, opening up some more playing time opportunities. While Deshawn McClease has been more consistently with getting 5-7 yard gains, Peoples has had a strong start to the season and is showing more explosiveness than we've seen from him previously. Against Duke, expect the senior to easily surpass his single-season rushing yards record with plenty of games to go to have a career year.

8: Duke's Ranking in ESPN's Strength of Record

Even though Duke has a pair of wins over power 5 opponents, some have wondered how strong Duke's 4-0 start really is. However, ESPN's Strength of Record metric has been impressed with the Blue Devils ranking eighth in Strength of Record ahead of both Oklahoma and Ohio State. Part of that may be due to the success of Army since Duke's opening weekend win over them as the Black Knights beat a solid Hawaii team and came very close to upsetting Oklahoma last weekend. In addition, the Blue Devils do have a pair of power 5 road wins including a road win over Baylor with backup QB Quentin Brown who is still expected to start unless Daniel Jones is able to play, an improbable possibility earlier this week that has grown in potential this week. Duke's strength of competition has received some minor questions in part because of the competition that the Blue Devils have faced with Quentin Brown at the helm (Baylor, NC Central), but the strength of record show how Duke should not be taken lightly whatsoever.

25.7: Yards Per Reception for Damon Hazelton

Damon Hazelton may only have 11 receptions through 3 games, but the Ball State transfer has made the most of them with 283 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and an impressive 25.7 yards per reception. While many viewed Hazelton as simply a big, traditional outside receiver; the redshirt sophomore has also shown lots of speed along with a knack for making big plays. Part of that is due to his high success rate at taking advantage of man-to-man matchups significantly down the field along with taking advantage of that aforementioned size to screen off defenders on some shorter passes. One thing to watch in this game is the fact that Hazelton may have some better chemistry with new Virginia Tech starting QB Ryan Willis after both spent time on the scout team last season while sittint out after their transfers due to NCAA rules. With Duke having multiple injuries on the defensive side including the loss of CB Mark Gilbert, Damon Hazelton has a great chance at having his third-straight 100-yard game especially with the arm talent Ryan Willis has shown in open practices and past Spring Games.

259: Number of Career Tackles for Joe Giles-Harris Since 2016

Earlier this week, the ACC announced the 14 "ACC Legends" that would be honored at this year's ACC Championship. Though Joe Giles-Harris still has almost 2 full seasons left in his time in Durham, the redshirt junior linebacker will one day receive that honor among his Duke football alums. Giles-Harris has developed into one of the ACC's best defensive players with Giles-Harris breaking the 100 tackle mark in 2016 and 2017 while also having 8.5 sacks during those two seasons (4 in 2016, 4.5 in 2017). Giles-Harris hasn't only been a volume tackler, but he's been a playmaker who received First Team All-ACC honors last season along with some Second Team All-American honors that will be far from the last of his career. Duke's defense has suffered multiple injuries headlined by the season-ending injury to talented CB Mark Gilbert, but Giles-Harris is a big reason why the Blue Devils' defense has been able to handle those losses and still have one of the most effective defenses in the ACC. Throughout Saturday's game, Giles-Harris is a player that the Hokies will have to know where he is at all times as someone who is more than capable as a run defender, pass rusher, and coverage linebacker.

122nd: Virginia Tech's Rank in Passing Defense

Virginia Tech's defense had a disastrous game last week especially in the secondary as Old Dominion backup QB Blake LaRussa threw for 491 yards in the massive upset win for the Monarchs. That performance caused Virginia Tech to fall in to the bottom 10 of pass defense in the country, something that seemed improbable after VT held Deondre Francois to 233 yards of passing and forced 3 interceptions in the Hokies' big win at FSU. The big difference for the Hokies between the first two games and ODU was Divine Deablo. With the Hokies' starting free safety out last week, the Hokies lacked a true ball-hawking deep safety to give their young cornerbacks some extra help with Khalil Ladler not adapting to the role well and Reggie Floyd not having a great game when called upon to be a deeper safety. The return of Deablo should give the Hokies some a young secondary, but VT will still be tested by Duke's talented WR duo of T.J. Rahming and Johnathan Lloyd, both of whom have at least 13 receptions and 3 touchdowns with Lloyd averaging over 18 yards per reception. The Hokies will need their secondary to step up after a shockingly bad performance against ODU.

2-2: Justin Fuente's Record Against David Cutcliffe

This will be the fifth matchup between Justin Fuente and David Cutcliffe as head coaches with Cutcliffe taking the first two games against Memphis during Fuente's first two years, and the Hokies beating Duke during the first two years of Justin Fuente's tenure. However, this looks like the most even matchup for these two coaches with Duke and Virginia Tech both considered among the top ACC Coastal contenders. One of the biggest things throughout comments from Fuente, Cutcliffe, and Bud Foster throughout the week is the massive amount of admiration and respect that both coaching staffs have for each other. That admiration and respect is likely something everyone will see on display whether that's before or after the game and will be a big difference in talking point from two weeks from now when the Hokies face UNC and Larry Fedora who appear to have a weak relationship at best.

Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

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