Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Virginia Tech looks to build on their season-opening victory against N.C. State as they travel to Durham to face an 0-3 Duke team hungry to finally get into the win column after an anemic offense has led them to a slow start.
With that said, here are our staff's picks for the Hokies and Blue Devils.
Virginia Tech is once again the clearly more talented team facing a Duke team that has a slightly stronger front 7 that N.C. State but a poor offense that may the worst in the conference.
Whether the Hokies do have Hendon Hooker back in a significant way or if it's the Braxton Burmeister show once again, Tech's offense should still be poised to excel against a decimated Duke secondary that is already without their top cornerbacks. Tre Turner may have only had one interception last week, but expect the Hokies' top wide receiver to have a big game against this secondary.
The running game will be tested by a stronger Duke defensive line, but the Hokies' offensive line has proven to be one of the best in America and another week to continue to improve conditioning should help even more. Expect tons of points from the Hokies in this one.
Meanwhile, there have been plenty of rumors that Tech may be without some defensive players but that shouldn't hurt them too much against a Duke offense that struggles to run the football and doesn't have much of a passing attack. Regardless of who is or isn't there both playing and coaching, Tech should be just fine.
Yes, there's a chance that absences could keep this one closer than expected but with what I've heard so far, I'm not buying it. Combine that with the chance to avenge last year's disaster and this should be a comfortable victory for the Hokies ahead of next week's showdown with North Carolina.
Pick: Virginia Tech 42, Duke 20
“I’ve seen a lot of opportunities, honestly. There are a lot of opportunities for us to go and make plays.”
This was said by Tech cornerback Brion Murray earlier this week when discussing the Duke offense. To me, this is one of the most disrespectful things a player can say about an opposing team – and the thing is Murray is spot on with his assessment. Duke’s offense has been a disaster for the last 10 quarters of football. They were gifted two short fields against Virginia and looked completely inept against Boston College and the second half of the Notre Dame game.
Chase Brice has thrown six interceptions this season and just doesn’t seem to have any chemistry with his receivers. The running game is three yards and a cloud of dust. The offensive line has not done their job protecting the quarterback. Tech looked great defensively against an NC State offense much more potent than Duke’s, and that level of dominance should translate on Saturday.
Despite missing a good chunk of the team, including starter Hendon Hooker, the Hokies easily put up 45 points last week. With Hooker back in the fold, that production should continue, particularly if the Hokies choose to continue to attack their perimeter weapons downfield.
The coaching staff did not unleash the full passing game upon the Wolfpack with Quincy Patterson and Braxton Burmeister at the helm, instead relying mainly on fade balls where Tech’s receivers outmuscled the NC State secondary. Hooker’s presence will open up the playbook as Cornelsen will call more nuanced plays and lead to more varied route trees and play designs.
Tech’s new runner, Khalil Herbert, paid immediate dividends in his first game in maroon last week rushing for 104 yards on just six carries. Duke’s front seven is better than NC State’s, but they will need to commit eight players to stop the run every play against the Hokies’ solid offensive line. That will open up space in the secondary for Hooker to take advantage of, either with his arms or his legs.
Overall, I like the Hokies to exact revenge for the debacle in Lane last year. This should not be less than a two touchdown game.
Pick: Virginia Tech 37, Duke 23
The Hokies seek to find revenge in Durham after last year’s humiliating 45-10 defeat in Lane Stadium.
That defeat stained the Hokies in 2019, but the loss also changed the course of the year by making viable changes to help close out the regular season with a 6-2 record.
After two weeks of postponements, the Hokies did not miss a beat in their season opening win against the N.C. State, dominating the Wolfpack 45-24.
Their defense was the talking point as the Hokies recorded 6 sacks and 7 tackles for loss, while also gathering two interceptions in a splendid start to the season.
The performance also happened without new Defensive Coordinator Justin Hamiltion and cornerback Jermaine Waller with new CBs Coach Ryan Smith stepping up to replace Hamilton and executing a perfect game plan.
For the Blue Devils, their start to the 2020 season has not been a good one.
Through the first three games of the season, the Blue Devils have been outmatched by their opponents with every game being decided by at least two scores.
Transfer quarterback Chase Brice has struggled in his first season as the starting quarterback for the Blue Devils with 2 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions to go with a 99.3 passer rating.
If the Hokies go down to Durham with that same defensive efficiency, they could put loads of pressure on Brice and the Blue Devils and pull away in this one.
Regardless of who is able to go for the Hokies on Saturday, I believe they handle Duke with ease and improve to 2-0.
Pick: Virginia Tech 33, Duke 23
Week Two of Hokies football is upon us. Following a blowout victory against the N.C. State Wolfpack, Virginia Tech heads on the road to Durham this week, looking for vengeance against the Duke Blue Devils. Tech was upset by Duke last season after the Blue Devils came into Lane and shocked the Hokies, 45-10.
Since last season, the Hokies have gotten better, whereas the Blue Devils have become arguably worse.
Virginia Tech is coming off a game in which they was missing 23 players and two key coaches. Despite these absences, the Hokies were able to handle the Wolfpack easily, 45-24.
At this point, nobody knows who will and who won’t suit up on Saturday for either team, and we likely won’t find out until shortly before kickoff.
Even amidst all this uncertainty, I think that the Hokies will surge against the Blue Devils, more than making up for last year’s loss.
Expect Virginia Tech to put up big numbers and don’t expect the team to slow down. When two teams with such a wide talent gap match up, blowouts typically ensue. However, add into the mix that Duke showed no mercy in last year’s win against Tech, and Fuente and Co could keep their foot on the gas for all four quarters.