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No. 22 Duke vs. Virginia Tech Preview

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When: Saturday, September 29, 2018. 7:00 pm

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina

Television: ESPN2

Line: Duke -5.5

Last Time: Duke 3, Virginia Tech 24.  The Hokies completely shut down the Blue Devil offense last season in Blacksburg.  If not for a 31 yard Austin Parker field goal with five minutes remaining in the first half Duke would have been shutout.  Duke finished the game with just 183 yards of total offense.  The rains played a part in Duke being unable to move the ball, but its hard to think even in perfect conditions they would have moved the ball much better against the Virginia Tech defense.  Daniel Jones had one of his worst statistical games, completing just 10 of 24 pass attempts for 82 yards and an interception.  The Blue Devil defense kept Duke in it through most of the first half until Virginia Tech capitalized on a short field, scoring a touchdown just before the half to make the score 17-3.  The loss was Duke’s fifth in a row.

Game Preview

The Blue Devils are back in the Top 25 for the first time in nearly three years. Keeping that ranking won’t be easy. A lot has been made of Virginia Tech’s upset loss to Old Dominion last week.  Combine that with the loss of starting quarterback Josh Jackson to a broken fibula, and you have a lot of people selling their stock in the Hokies.  While Virginia Tech may no longer be the favorite to win the Coastal Division, it would be foolish to think they are going to give up on the rest of the season.  They remain one of the most talented teams in the ACC and Bud Foster is still coaching the defense.  A defense that is probably ready to bounce back after giving up 49 points to the winless Monarchs last week.

It’s hard to say what the Virginia Tech offense is going to look like without Josh Jackson.  Even with Jackson, the Hokies would lean on running backs Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease.  Both players are averaging over 5 yards per carry and have totaled 5 touchdowns this season.  To this point Peoples and McClease have split carries evenly.  Expect Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys to focus their efforts on helping stop the run.  The Duke secondary will be left in a lot of one on one coverage situations.  It would be a big boost to the Duke defense to get Michael Carter back this week to be the primary defender on Damon Hazelton Jr.

This week will be a real test for Quentin Harris and the Duke offense.  Duke’s stable of running backs has been their biggest strength on offense so far this year, but the Hokie defense has been pretty stout against the run, allowing just 2.9 yards per carry.  Harris is going to have to make some plays through the air or Duke could be in trouble.  As usual Virginia Tech has been forcing their opponents into turnovers, an average of over 2 per game.  Harris, and Duke as a team, has yet to thrown an interception this season, but he did have a fumble that was taken for a touchdown last week against NC Central.  Taking care of the ball will be his primary mission Saturday night.  If Duke wins the turnover battle, they will have a very good chance of heading into the bye week undefeated.