Preview: Duke v. Virginia Tech

The Blue Devils travel to Blacksburg this weekend to face one of the ACC's top teams

KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
GAMEDATE: 10/23/10
SITE: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ACC Network
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads 10-7 (last meeting, 2009, Virginia Tech 34-26)
RECORDS: Duke 1-5, 0-3; Virginia Tech 5-2, 3-0
POLLS: Virginia Tech (23 AP, 23 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 38-17
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- Duke must be able to show enough aggression to accomplish things on offense despite the seven-turnover outing the previous week, which is bound to make the Blue Devils cautious in some areas. Virginia Tech is on a roll with five consecutive victories and, on the surface, Duke doesn't appear to be much of a roadblock. Duke's defense has been sturdy the past couple of games and the Blue Devils must maintain that and hope that the offense can perk up after falling in the doldrums.

-- It's all about what mindset Virginia Tech brings to this one. If they execute decently and don't make a lot of mental mistakes, there's not a realistic scenario under which Duke can win. Tech could hang a half-hundred on the board for the second straight week.

SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- There might be more sense of urgency for Duke to establish a rushing attack as QB Sean Renfree copes with a lull in his development. Certainly there's going to be an emphasis on ball security after the seven turnovers against Miami. But coming up with more points in the red zone is a priority as well as the Blue Devils have just two touchdowns in the last two games. The linemen seem more comfortable with their run-blocking, but that will be another big task going against Virginia Tech's defensive front.

Improvement has been evident on defense for the Blue Devils. They've been more versatile in some of their formations the past couple of games and that might account for their ability to do a better job of containing offenses. They'll hope that their preparations for Miami QB Jacoby Harris carries into this next game when they must deal with Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor.

With QB Tyrod Taylor making dazzling plays in the passing game and with his feet, Virginia Tech can be tough to stop. Throw in good work by the offensive line, a handful of tough catches by the wideouts and you have an offense that scored 49 first-half points last week.

Big plays haunted Tech's defense last week with a vengeance. The Hokies allowed touchdowns of 33, 87 and 78 yards. That will have to be corrected by the time Tech gets to November, or Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami will make them pay.

FAST FACTS: Blue Devils: The game at Virginia Tech will mark the first for Duke this season in which a crowd of more than 40,000 will be on hand. The Blue Devils played in front of 39,000-plus twice (home vs. Alabama, at Maryland). But there should be well more than twice as many fans on hand for the Virginia Tech game than the 25,911 that was announced for Duke's home game against Miami. ... Duke has scored a total of 20 points in three trips to Blacksburg, Va., since Virginia Tech became a member of the ACC. Duke's 26 points last year in a 34-26 home loss to the Hokies marked more points for the Blue Devils than in the previous four games combined against Virginia Tech. ... Maybe the timing will help. Duke is 3-2 under coach David Cutcliffe in the month of October. ... The Blue Devils have scored 20 times in the 22 occasions they have made it inside an opponent's 20-yard line, but only 11 of those scores have been touchdowns. Duke's overall scoring rate of 90.1 percent makes the Blue Devils one of three ACC teams (North Carolina and Florida) over 90 percent in red zone scoring.

Hokies: QB Tyrod Taylor can move into fourth place on Tech's all-time passing yardage list with 144 yards against Duke. Taylor lit up the Blue Devils up last year for 327 yards on 17-of-22 passing. Taylor has thrown for 5,596 yards. The all-time career leader for the Hokies is Bryan Randall with 6,508. ... Taylor already holds the career rushing record for a quarterback with 2,017 yards. (Keep in mind Michael Vick played only two years and amassed 1,202 rushing yards). ... The Hokies have scored more than 40 points in three straight games for the first time since 2005, when they tallied 45 against Duke, 45 on Ohio and 51 against Georgia Tech. ... Tech has scored in a school record 196 consecutive games. The streak started after a 16-0 loss to Cincinnati in 1995. ... Junior WR Jarrett Boykin enters the Duke game with 99 career interceptions, ninth all-time in Hokies history. Boykin has 29 receptions this year after registering 40 in 2009. ... Junior WR Dyrell Roberts is averaging 26.6 yards a return on 49 career kickoff runbacks. ... Sophomore CB Jayron Hosley has four interceptions to lead the Hokies in that category.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Blue Devils:
LB Kelby Brown -- He has shown the ability to be near the ball in his limited opportunities this season since the true freshman was thrust into the starting lineup the past two games. He has two fumble recoveries.

RB Jay Hollingsworth -- He's coming off a career-best outing where he rushed for 69 yards against Miami. He had 10 carries in that game, marking only the second time this season that he had more than three carries, so his role could be expanding.

CB Johnny Williams -- He could be called upon for his first start on the defensive side since he was converted from a receiver during the offseason. He has been a backup this year.

Hokies:
RB David Wilson -- One of the conference's fastest players looks like a good candidate for a big run or two against a leaky front seven. Wilson is coming off a 105-yard performance against Wake Forest.

QB Logan Thomas -- If Tech plays as expected and turns the second half into extended garbage time, Thomas will get more snaps in relief of QB Tyrod Taylor. The coaches won't pare his play sheet down, as they'd like to see how he executes the entire offense in game situations.

CB Kyle Fuller -- A backup who will likely see plenty of second-half playing time, Fuller hopes for a more consistent performance. He made a mental error on a 78-yard TD pass by Wake Forest last week.

INJURY WATCH:
Blue Devils: CB Russ Cockrell (undisclosed, questionable).

Hokies: TB Ryan Williams, (hamstring, doubtful), QB Tyrod Taylor (wrist, probable), WR Xavier Boyce (knee, probable).


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