After a poor offensive performance on their way to a 17-3 loss against Boston College, Virginia Tech returns home to Lane Stadium for Senior Day looking to finish the season with a winning record against a Duke team that is also struggling of late. Both teams also saw their starting quarterbacks suffer injuries that caused them to miss the rest of last week's games from the time of injury though it sounds like both guys will play.
So will the Hokies be able to get a fourth home win of the season on Senior Day? Here are our picks for Virginia Tech against Duke.
Given the fact that both teams have starting quarterbacks who are banged up at best, this feels like it'll be a low-scoring game where the first team to 20 points (or even 17 or 14) wins.
This feels like it could be a big day for Tech's defense given how Duke is somewhat one-dimensional in general though if Gunnar Holmberg isn't 100%, they become very one-dimensional. However, Tech will face a challenge from star RB Mataeo Durant and the Hokies will have to be focused on stopping the run and letting their talented cornerbacks contain guys like Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun who both are over 40 receptions on the season.
Offensively, Tech has to get back to their run-heavy identity that has given them lots of success and helped them set up a solid play action and RPO passing attack. Justin Fuente seems confident that Braxton Burmeister will play based on his comments from Monday, but Tech will need to be ready to adapt their playbook if Knox Kadum comes in especially after running QB powers at times like Kadum was nearly the runner that Burmeister is.
Regardless, this is a Duke defense that is giving up 4.7 yards per carry and if Tech embraces that run-heavy approach that helped their offense find some rhythm pre-BC game, then expect Malachi Thomas and Raheem Blackshear to both have big games.
In the end, this is going to be a close, low-scoring game, but the Hokies will do enough to get a Senior Day victory over Duke and give themselves a shot to still reach a bowl game.
Pick: Virginia Tech 20, Duke 13
The Hokies will play possibly the easiest game on their schedule when they host Duke for senior day. The Blue Devils are typically mediocre, but they have been just plain bad this year under head coach David Cutcliffe. With a 3-6 record, the Blue Devils' lone FBS wins are over Kansas and Northwestern. They are 0-5 in their last 5 and have failed to score 10 points in three of those games. However, given the Hokies' recent troubles they cannot afford to overlook any opponent.
Virginia Tech, in their 3-point outing against Boston College last week, somehow ended a college football game in 2021 completing just seven passes. The good news is even if Burmeister is a no-go, Tech should be able to score points against Duke. The Blue Devils have allowed 30-plus points in their last five games against ACC opponents, including allowing 4.7 yards per carry. Whoever starts at quarterback should have a huge game on the ground, in addition to Malachi Thomas.
On defense, Tech will play a struggling Duke offense that has averaged less than 5.5 yards per play during conference play. That's not necessarily bad, but Duke just lacks the ability to have big offensive games and allows opposing defenses to pressure them with no real threat of being beat over the top. Duke's run game is their lifeblood of the offense, but the Hokies should be able to stack the box and limit their success on the ground.
Overall, the Hokies should be able to win an overall boring game with their run game while once again not really doing much through the air.