Virginia Tech (4-5) at Duke (8-1)Nov. 15, 12:00, ESPNU
Here's The Deal: With a harder-than-it-looked victory over Syracuse on Saturday, Duke continued its march toward a second straight Coastal Division crown. The Blue Devils can take another giant step toward the league title game by beating Virginia Tech, especially since contenders Miami and Georgia Tech face Florida State and Clemson, respectively. Now that the Hokies have had two weeks to reflect and soul search, what does this fading ACC empire have left for the stretch run? Besieged this fall by injuries and an ineffective offense—again—the Gobblers need two wins in the final three games to extend their bowl streak to 22 years.
Why Virginia Tech Might Win: The Hokies needed a break from contact, which will result in a fresher team down the stretch. Tech still plays a surly brand of D, and it’s not as if Duke, particularly QB Anthony Boone, has been uber-steady on offense over the past month. The Hokies will pressure the pocket with Ken Ekanem and Dadi Nicolas off the edge, and blanket Blue Devil receivers with CB Kendall Fuller and the rest of a secondary allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 46% of their throws.
Why Duke Might Win: Tech is not playing with its usual roster of talent, and now starting RT Jonathan McLaughlin is out with an ankle injury. Correcting what ails the Hokie attack just got harder. Inconsistent QB Michael Brewer vs. the Blue Devil pass defense will be the visitors’ biggest worry. He’ll attempt to navigate a Duke secondary that’s yielded the nation’s fewest touchdown passes, and does not give up big plays. The talented, yet young, Va Tech receivers will lose the battle with safeties Jeremy Cash and Devon Edwards.
Who To Watch Out For: Injuries to DT Luther Maddy and LB Chase Williams have helped make Virginia Tech more vulnerable to the run this season. The Hokies are uncharacteristically giving up 4.5 yards per carry, and the Blue Devils will want to exploit that softer interior with Shaun Wilson, Shaquille Powell and Josh Snead. Change-of-pace backup QB Thomas Sirk, who’s rushed for seven scores, should be a prominent part of the gameplan as well.
What’s Going To Happen: In a historical role reversal, Duke has learned to pull out close games, while Virginia Tech is 0-4 in contests decided by seven or fewer points. The Blue Devils will once again be challenged after halftime. And they’ll once again find the right formula for success, shutting down Brewer and the Hokie offense to remain atop the Coastal Division.
Prediction: Duke 28 … Virginia Tech 21
Line: Duke -5.5 o/u: 48