Preview: Duke (4-6) @ Virginia Tech (6-4)

The Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg on Saturday to face the Virginia Tech Hokies in the final road game of the 2008 season knowing that a loss will officially dash any hopes of post season play. Pulling the upset won't be easy - especially with the projected absence of starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

This will be the 16th time the two programs have met with the Hokies owning a seven game win streak in the series and an overall lead of 8-7. The last three contests have been lopsided affairs with Virginia Tech winning by an average score of 42-8.

Injury Report:
RB Clifford Harris (arm) -- OUT
DE Wesley Oglesby (leg) -- OUT
QB Thaddeus Lewis (foot) -- Doubtful
DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk (leg) -- Questionable
CB Jabari Marshall (leg) -- Probable

When Virginia Tech has the ball
Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon have formed a quarterback by committee in 2008, with each having their own ups and downs along the way. A season ago Taylor started five games under center, winning all five. However, the Virginia native was expected to redshirt this year before being given the reigns of the offense. The idea of a redshirt was lost quickly after he came off the bench to rush for 112 yards against Furman. He started against Georgia Tech and would start for the next five games before Glennon took over against Maryland and Miami. Currently Taylor is second on the team in rushing (485 yards) while also putting up respectable passing numbers (61-for-109 on the year for 660 yards and a touchdown).

Glennon, a more traditional pocket passing quarterback, currently ranks seventh in total yards and fifth in passing yards on the career passing lists at Tech. He has been a steadying force in the last few games, leading the Hokies to a win over Maryland after being forced out of the match up with Florida State due to an injured ankle. Against the Seminoles it wasn't just Glennon who was forced to the sideline - Taylor was also injured which left the Hokies with Cory Holt who had played WR and quarterback during his time in Blacksburg. Holt ended up throwing for a score.

In the backfield the Hokies rely on redshirt freshman Darren Evans, a former EA Sports National Player of the Year and Parade All-American performer in high school. This season he's made an immediate impact for Tech, rushing for for 815 yards and nine scores. Establishing a ground game will be of the utmost importance for the Hokies who have made a living of out-gaining their opponents with the run under head coach Frank Beamer. Under Beamer the Hokies 152-30-2 when outrushing their opponents, 20-59 when being out-rushed and 1-0 when the rushing total is even.

The receiving game has been hampered by inexperience and looks to tight end Greg Boone as a steadying force. However Boone has only shown flashes this season - catching 14 balls for 172 yards and two scores. At 6-foot-3, and 280lbs Boone has a strong set of hands and is a load to bring down after the catch. Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin are the team's leading pass catchers, combining for 42 catches and 554 yards on the season.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle the Hokies have been forced to overcome this season has been the progression and development of the offensive line. The Hokies have seen injuries and a general lack of experience combine to prevent Glennon and Taylor from getting the kind of time they need in the pocket. The run blocking, however, has been very good.

When Duke Has the ball:
The last few meeting with the Hokies have been marked by Duke quarterbacks spending nearly as much time on their backs as they are vertical. With the Blue Devils' Thaddeus Lewis listed as questionable after getting pummeled by Clemson, the Hokies will most likely be looking to tee off on red shirt junior Zack Asack. It all starts up front where Tech's front four is led by tackles John Graves and Cordarrow Thompson who have made a habit of opening lanes to the quarterback. Off the ends come Jason Worilds and Orion Martin. Martin, a walk-on in 2005, has since earned a starting position and is now one of 71 college football players nominated for the American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. Currently he leads the team in tackles for loss with 12.5 which includes 7.5 sacks. He has also forced two fumbles and has four pass breakups. On the other side, Worilds is fourth on the team in tackles with 47 including 12.0 for a loss and 5.5 sacks.

The front four of the Hokies has been able to carve up opposing O-lines because of the strength of the defensive backfield where cornerback Victor Harris has taken over for NFL-bound Brandon Flowers with nearly as much success. Currently Harris has made an impact on both sides of the ball - lining up as a receiver, defensive back, and on special teams. Defensively he's racked up four interceptions for 119 yards. On the other side is Stephan Virgil who returned to the team after academics kept him out of Spring ball. This season he ranks ninth on the team with 32 tackles including two for a loss.

Fearless Predictions:
The stars are not aligning for the Blue Devils to be able to pull the upset against the Hokies, even with Virginia Tech having a somewhat "off" season. Even if Duke was at full strength it would be a tall order, but without a fully charged Lewis the Duke passing game will not be as effective as it would need to be. Virginia Tech has shown the ability to score points on offense, but the Duke defense has been very stout throughout most of the season. If the Blue Devil offense can figure a way to win the time of possession battle and somehow keep the defense from operating on a short field, then this could be a game. Still, given the injuries and Tech's history of getting to the Duke signal callers almost at will, the likelihood of an upset seems farfetched.

Predicted Final Score:
Duke 10
Virginia Tech - 34


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