KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 ET
SITE: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.
TV: ACC Network
SERIES: Virginia Tech leads 11-7 (last meeting, 2010, Virginia Tech 44-7)
RECORDS: Virginia Tech 7-1, 3-1 ACC; Duke 3-4, 1-2 ACC
POLLS: Virginia Tech (No. 15 AP, No. 15 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 31-17
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Virginia Tech: Kill the clock. The Hokies are controlling the ball for more than 34 minute a game, and that could be vital this week with so many injuries on defense. If the Hokies can get after Duke QB Sean Renfree and protect a secondary that could be without Jayron Hosley again, that would be huge.
-- For Duke: Be more productive on offense. The Blue Devils must limit mistakes that have short-circuited recent scoring opportunities. They aren't overly big on defense and will be tested against some of the bulk that Virginia Tech will send at them.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
As QB Logan Thomas continues to grow and improve, Virginia Tech's offense becomes more of a spread unit, operating from the shotgun on nearly three-fourths of its 76 plays last week. The trick is to accentuate Thomas' strengths while still remembering to get the ball to TB David Wilson, something which didn't happen in the first half against Boston College when Wilson managed just six carries. The coaching staff has to make sure Wilson gets 20-to-25 touches per game because of his incredible big-play ability, but Thomas' skill and improved decision-making is earning him the right to throw 30 or more passes a game.
As injuries continue to mount -- three opening day defensive starters are definitely out at Duke and three others might not play -- Virginia Tech's depth on defense is being tested. Duke's passing attack and depth at receiver will definitely test the Hokies' secondary. It wouldn't be a shock to see nickel and even dime packages from coordinator Bud Foster. No matter how he deploys the defense, though, the key will be the pass rush. Tech has consistently gotten to the QB this year, notching four sacks against Boston College along with a handful of hurries. Putting the QB on the turf a lot of times can make up for many things.
Duke's rushing attack shows flashes of moving in the right direction, but there's not enough there on a consistent basis to take pressure off the passing attack. The passing game might look to become more vertical after stretches of wide passes created plenty of completions for QB Sean Renfree but not a lot of yards against Wake Forest. The line could be a strength with C Brian Moore back in the mix, and it will need all the extra depth against Virginia Tech's defensive front.
Duke's defensive coverage was sound against Wake Forest, so that was an area that looked improved despite one second-half breakdown that proved costly. Even with the better coverage, pressuring the quarterback produces only so much positive results if a sack isn't made. Limiting quarterbacks from escaping the pocket will be an area the Blue Devils will look to refine.
Hokies: The Hokies are shooting for a school record at Duke. They currently own a 10-game road winning streak, tied for the longest in school history. It's also the longest streak of its kind in the nation, a game ahead of Oregon and Oklahoma State. ... The Hokies are 4-2 against Duke in games played in Durham. The last meeting there was a wild 34-23 victory with Tech recovering an onsides kick to preserve its win. ... Six different players scored for the Hokies in their win over the Blue Devils last year, but only one -- TB David Wilson -- is back this season. ... Tech is 15-1 in the state of North Carolina since joining the ACC in 2004, with the only loss coming in the 2008 season opener against East Carolina in Charlotte. That includes wins at Duke in 2005, 2007 and 2009. ... Tech is a patient team with five touchdown drives of more than 85 yards. ... WR Danny Coale recorded a career-high eight catches in the win over Boston College on Saturday and is now second in school history in catches and receiving yards, trailing only teammate Jarrett Boykin. He has caught at least two passes in 39 of 49 career games and has been shut out only four times.
Blue Devils: Duke goes into the game with a two-game losing streak after winning three in a row. ... Duke ran 91 plays in the loss to Wake Forest. That's the most plays run by the Blue Devils in a game since they took 92 snaps in a 2003 loss at Maryland. ... The Blue Devils have been miffed by their lack of discipline and coach David Cutcliffe said he takes responsibility for that. One piece of evidence that mistakes are chipping away at the impact of their good plays comes from the fact that the Blue Devils completed 16 of 19 first-half passes against Wake Forest yet produced only three points in the half.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Logan Thomas -- The 6-foot-6 sophomore has become the first QB in coach Frank Beamer's 25 seasons to throw for more than 260 yards in three straight games. The odds look good for another big day against a defense that allows more than 400 yards per game. As long as Thomas doesn't turn the ball over, there are too many favorable matchups for him not to enjoy success.
RB David Wilson -- Talk about consistency. In the last five games, Wilson has run for between 123 and 136 yards, a prime reason why he's also met his preseason goal of rushing for more than 1,000 yards. His new goal is 1,700 yards and as long as the coaches don't forget to get him the ball, he might get there with room to spare.
LB Barquell Rivers -- He and Jack Tyler will divide time in the spot which belonged to Bruce Taylor, who's out for the year. Rivers' torn quadriceps of 2010 might keep him from playing long stretches, but he's still capable of being a run-stuffer and he knows the defense as well as anyone on the team.
LB Kelby Brown -- He brings a physical element to the defense and the Blue Devils figure to need that against Virginia Tech. He was involved in 2 1/2 tackles for losses against Wake Forest, accounting for minus-18 yards.
QB Anthony Boone -- He's the backup used mostly in short-yardage situations. But he has been effective by scoring on four of his 22 carries this year. So if he's in the game, the Blue Devils are expecting some production.
PK Will Snyderwine -- After missing his first four attempts on field goals this year, he's 6-for-6 since then. That pushes his career mark to 44-of-54.
CB Jayron Hosley (hamstring, questionable) DE James Gayle (ankle, questionable), LB Bruce Taylor (foot, out).
CB Johnny Williams (leg, questionable), QB Sean Renfree (back/hip, probable).