Here's The Deal: Durham will be ground zero this weekend for the hotly-contested Coastal Division race. Virginia is the last unbeaten team in the southern half of the ACC, but Duke is coming on strong following a pivotal win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday. The Cavaliers have been the league’s biggest surprise so far in 2014, already doubling last season’s win total. However, the Blue Devils are the defending divisional champ, and they’ve won five of the last six meetings in a series that traces its beginnings to 1890.
Why Virginia Might Win: Mike London’s defense is terrific … and well-rested. The Cavaliers enjoyed a week off, with a chance to reflect on how far they’ve come on D. They lead the ACC in takeaways, while allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. UVa has been dynamite at each level, particularly DE Eli Harold and linebackers Henry Coley, Max Valles and Daquan Romero. The speed and range of this defense will be a problem for Blue Devil QB Anthony Boone, who’s been ineffective against FBS defenses.
Why Duke Might Win: The Blue Devil D continues to surprise, sparking last week’s win over the Yellow Jackets. Duke bends, but rarely breaks, especially when the ball is in the air. The ball-hawking secondary, headed by CB Devon Edwards and S Jeremy Cash, has eight picks and only two touchdown passes allowed. Strides have been made, but the Virginia offense remains inconsistent, throwing as many picks as touchdowns, and averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
Who To Watch Out For: With both passing attacks likely to sputter, the play of the backs will go a long way to determining a victor. The ‘Hoos will lean on workhorse Kevin Parks, who can pick up the tough yards between the tackles. The Blue Devils will employ homerun hitter Shaun Wilson, who’s averaging 10.8 yards per carry. Both teams’ lines are blocking well, and will need to continue to do so Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.
What’s Going To Happen: This ought to be one of the more entertaining Week 8 games about which not enough people are talking. Duke and Virginia are evenly matched, without a lot of separation on either side of the ball. And there’s plenty on the line. The Blue Devils will build on their momentum, seizing a special teams edge for a close win at home.
Prediction: Duke 28 … Virginia 24
Line: Duke -3 o/u: 50.5