Ask anybody about the odds of Duke going into Blacksburg and beating No. 14 ranked Virginia Tech and most won’t give the Blue Devils much of a chance.
Many cite the fact that Duke went into play the Hokies last season and jumped out to a 20-0 lead before falling 41-20 after a total collapse of their defense and offense, which couldn’t put together first downs. That was a Virginia Tech team, by their own standards, was down at 3-3 (1-1 ACC) heading into that game while Duke was 5-1 (2-0) in the conference.
This year, the Blue Devils come in with a similar 5-2 (1-2 ACC) record but the Hokies are much more like, well the Hokies, with a national ranking and a more Virginia Tech-type dominating defense. Still it is hard to discount Duke entirely. While most can clearly see that the Hokies are better, David Cutcliffe feels like this is his best team since he arrived in Durham and it may be hard to argue.
Duke’s running game is averaging 182.7 yards per game, a vast improvement over last season and an important asset to have on offense. Despite losing skilled and versatile weapons in Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott, the Blue Devils still have a dangerous and explosive player in Jamison Crowder, who is one of the ACC’s best all purpose players.
Still, the things that set Virginia Tech apart is their defense which is only allowing 15 points per game and that includes a game against Alabama. Will Duke be able to move the ball against that defense, that is the ultimate question?
Inversely, can the Blue Devils defense, which has shown glimpses of improvement but has been the definition of inconsistent, stop the improving Hokies offense lead by Logan Thomas? He has never been upset to see the Duke defense in front of him.
If you look at purely the numbers, this game should be a matchup of Duke’s offense versus Virginia Tech’s defense. That will be a big part of it, but the Blue Devils are hoping the defense that has shown up in the second half of the last three games, all victories, shows up and can put a stop to Thomas and the Hokies’ offense.
If Duke can somehow manage to keep this game close they have a better chance of winning, but they are going to have to catch the Virginia Tech defense napping and find a way to get a lead and unlike last year, hold on. Should the Hokies jump out on top, there is very little chance that their defense will give up any kind of lead big or small so Duke’s offense and defense are going to have to be equally strong.
Virginia Tech- 38 Duke-17
I really would like the Blue Devils to find a way to pull this game out but considering Duke has been beat up, Virginia Tech has had an extra week to get healthy and prepare strictly for the Blue Devils, all the advantages go toward the Hokies.
Oh, and for the second consecutive year, Duke has to go on the road to Blacksburg, a place where the Hokies don’t often lose.