Virginia Tech at #22 Duke Picks
Editor's Note: All Picks Except Tim's Were Made Before Announcement of Daniel Jones Starting
Tim ThomasAfter a disappointing performance in Norfolk, Virginia Tech is looking to avoid their worst start of the Justin Fuente era. Meanwhile, Duke likely senses blood in the water with a VT team coming off a bad loss to ODU, the loss of QB Josh Jackson indefinitely due to injury, and the dismissal of starting DE Trevon Hill. In addition, Daniel Jones has somehow miraculously healed from a broken clavicle suffered three weeks ago to play in tonight's game. While the Hokies have lost a lot this week, they will have a healthy Divine Deablo at free safety. The loss of Deablo last week proved larger than anyone could imagine as the Hokies' young cornerbacks had plenty of issues in part caused by the lack of a true deep safety. With Deablo able to step back into that role and allow Khalil Ladler to move back into the nickelback role, the Hokies' secondary should have a much better performance. Duke has a pair of talented receivers in Johnathan Lloyd and TJ Rahming that will test the Hokies, making the matchup of Rahming vs. Ladler in the slot one to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, both Duke and Virginia Tech will need their running backs to establish their ground attack with Daniel Jones returning after being out for weeks and Ryan Willis making his first start for the Hokies. Tonight, expect Virginia Tech to respond well after last week's tough loss and if Quentin Harris was the starting QB, I would be going with VT in part because Harris has completed under 50% of his passes this season and though he has been productive, he hasn't necessarily been consistent. However, the return of Daniel Jones is a difference maker and will make this game even more interesting. Despite that, I think the challenge of being out for a few weeks and not being able to practice will hurt Duke's offense while Ryan Willis will make enough plays to get the Hokies a win combined with a special teams unit that is among the best in America being the x-factor.
Pick: Virginia Tech 21, #22 Duke 20
David CunninghamThe 2-1 Hokies travel to Durham to face the 4-0 Blue Devils. Duke is ranked 22nd in the nation and from what we’ve seen in the first four games, they are fairly talented. It’s going to be a close game. This is the first time Duke has been favored against Tech since 2014, where the Hokies beat No. 19 Duke 17-16 in Durham. I think a similar result, though more high scoring, is in store for tomorrow. I’ve seen multiple fans say they are worried about Ryan Willis. Put your faith in Justin Fuente and roll with it. Fuente is 3-0 when using a backup quarterback, all three games of which came when he was the QB’s coach/offensive coordinator at TCU. Andy Dalton was his quarterback then. Fuente will have Willis ready to go against the Blue Devils. Damon Hazelton and the rest of the receivers, as well as the running backs, won’t shy away from the challenge either. The offensive line is the question, but as long as they are solid, the Hokies have a chance against a stingy Duke defense. If the offensive line for Tech can’t hold? Then it will be a long night for Willis. I predict that the OL has a decently strong game against Duke tomorrow and gives Tech a chance. As for defense.. boy, are there some things to fix after last week. Divine Deablo is back, which is great news for Bud Foster. Ricky Walker, Emmanuel Belmar, Jarrod Hewitt, and the rest of the defensive line will REALLY have to kick it up a notch this game in order to put pressure on the suddenly healthy Daniel Jones. He’s looked sharp this season for the Blue Devils before his injury. Their offense is going to be talented, so hopefully Farley and Watts are ready. Tech fans, they are going to score at least some points - it’s going to be a long night. Like the last time went to Durham, it would be great if they could get a special teams play or two like the blocked field goal Adonis Alexander had and returned for a touchdown. Something needs to happen for Tech or else it will be a long night. I think this one goes into overtime. Tech wins in overtime in Durham 27-24. Hokies lead and give up a touchdown with a few minutes to go but hold on for the win. At least that’s what I am hoping for. It will be a competitive game, to say the least. If Tech gets the win here, people likely start wiping ODU from memory. With a loss, though, Notre Dame at home next weekend will be even more difficult and more of a must-win.
Pick: Virginia Tech 27, #22 Duke 24
Grant AtkinsonThere’s really no way to sugarcoat it: Virginia Tech had one of the worst weekends in program history last weekend. First, they suffered a loss that will be remembered as one of the most embarrassing games the Hokies have ever played. On top of that, they lost their starting QB for an extended period of time, and their most experienced defensive end was kicked off the team. That’s not an ideal 48 hours.
Even without these circumstances, Duke is never an easy out. Bud Foster talked this week about how Cutcliffe always has the Blue Devils prepared for each and every game. This year’s Duke squad is even better than usual, coming into Saturday’s game at 4-0 and ranked at #22 in the AP Poll.
The Hokies, on the other hand, had some big holes exposed. The young corners were beaten repeatedly by simple fade routes, and the linebackers missed numerous easy tackles.
Yet somehow, I still feel good about this week. The Hokies aren’t perfect, and that showed last week. However, I don’t feel they are nearly as bad as they looked last Saturday. Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think we will see a rejuvenated team in Durham. The true mark of a team, especially a young one like this, is how they deal with adversity. I am hopeful that they will have a good showing.