Preview: Duke (1-5) vs. Virginia (5-1)

Duke returns home this Saturday to face the Virginia Cavaliers. After suffering their first defeat of the season last weekend against Florida State, Virginia will be looking to get back to their winning ways. Duke suffered a similar fate last weekend against Georgia Tech, and must find a way to penetrate the stifling UVA defense. Lets see how the teams match up.

When UVA has the ball:

The Cavaliers do not run a very complex offense, but their execution is the envy of most college teams. Tailback Wali Lundy leads the ACC is scoring, and backup Alvin Pearman is among the ACC's leaders in receptions. The most impressive part of the UVA offense, however, is their stellar offensive line. Preseason all-American guard Elton Brown and tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson head this unit. The Duke defensive line will have their hands full taking on the Cavalier blockers.

Defensive tackle Orrin Thompson has the size and power to take the blocker s on, but he will need some help. Duke's starting defensive ends will need to play at a very low pad level this weekend, as Virginia's bread-and-butter is the counter off-tackle where the backside guards pulls.

Virginia dominated Duke last season, running this play a majority of the snaps. Their effective running game sets up a surprisingly efficient passing attack. QB Marques Hagans is one of the ACC's highest rated passers this season. After spending the 2003 season shuttling between wide receiver and backup quarterback, Hagans has adequately replaced the departed Matt Schaub as a thrower, and gives the Cavaliers an added running dimension from under center. Duke will need to be cognizant of his scrambling abilities on all passing plays.

When Duke has the ball:

Duke must find a way to score more points. The offense was impotent against Georgia Tech, and things will not be much easier this week. Despite the loss of all-ACC DE Chris Candy, the Cavalier front seven is one of the best in the conference. The line backing corps is second to none in college football, led by super sophomores Kai Parham and Ahmad Brooks. OLB Daryl Blackstock is one of the best pass-rushers in the conference, regardless of position.

The Duke offensive line and backs must be prepared from multiple blitzing schemes from the 3-4 defense employed by UVA. Where the Cavaliers can be had, however, is through the air. Their defensive secondary has some talent but has not preformed well enough to be strength. FSU QB Wyatt Sexton picked them apart last week, and Duke must try and do the same. Giving quarterback Mike Schneider enough time to find the open receiver is a top priority.

Keys to the game:

*- Keep ‘Em Fresh -- The Duke defensive line is going to be really tired after this Saturday\rquote s game. The UVA offensive line is big, mean, and nasty, and can control the entire game. The Duke defensive staff must find a way to keep the line fresh so they can battle against the offense. The defense can help them by forcing UVA punts early in the game. The offense must also be able to sustain some drives to give the defense rest.

*- Three Big Plays -- Duke will need big plays to win this weekend's game. The offense must generate at least one long score. The defense or special teams must also come up with a big play. The third could come from either unit, but Duke will need it to get over the hump this weekend.

*- Blitz pickup: -- Virginia is one of the best blitzing teams in the country. Their defensive coordinators do an excellent job of disguising them before the snap, which makes the offense react very quickly to block it. Of course, the excellent UVA players are what make the scheme so effective. The Duke offensive line and running backs must quickly figure out where the blitz is coming from and adjust the blocking schemes accordingly. The one silver lining for Duke is if they can pick up the blitzers, the receivers should be open.

Bottom Line: Duke is going to need to find a way to keep the UVA from running right over the defense. The Cavalier offensive line will be the best the Devils have faced this season to date. Even if it means bringing more defenders to the line of scrimmage, it must be done. Based on their performance so far, Duke will not be able to stop with only seven defenders. It will take 8 or even 9 guys in the tackle box to slow them down. If Duke does bring extra guys up, UVA will then be forced to try and beat Duke through the air. Granted, Duke will likely be in single coverage on the outside, but that is preferable to being run on all day long.

On offense, Duke has to find a way to get the running game going. Starting tailback Cedric Dargan returned to the field last weekend, but was unable to get anything going against Georgia Tech. He will most likely have a tough test ahead of his this week as well. Still, Duke will need to run the ball with modest success to force UVA to play run first. This will slow down their blitzing, which will give the Devils some breathing room when they pass.

Duke can win this game, however, many things have break the Devils way. They will need the defense to give a great effort and slow down the UVA running game. They will also need some big plays, which the Duke offense has had a miserable time doing in 2004. The special teams or defense will have to score for the Devils to put enough points on the board to win. Duke has done a great job in this arena, but it will just not be enough this week.

Predicted Final Score:

Virginia- 34
Duke- 16


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