It goes without saying that the ACC has yet again managed to ruin its chances at establishing itself as a football conference with the recent set back of its powerhouse Florida State.
And with Clemson, the other nationally prominent team already having lost to FSU and mainstay Virginia Tech already suffering three loses, it seems that the conference is in a familiar place. They have several good teams but no apparent great team or national title contender.
NC State’s victory over Florida State ended those chances barring some miracle, and now Duke, yes Duke has a chance to turn the ACC on its head if they can go into Blacksburg and beat the Hokies. That isn’t likely to be the easiest of tasks given the fact that Virginia Tech has not lost to Duke in Blacksburg since 1981 and the Blue Devils are winless in the series since the Hokies joined the ACC.
But the times they are a changin’ as Dylan use to croon, and this isn’t your father’s Duke Football.
Duke heads into the matchup underdogs, mainly because of the location, but they have all the momentum, having won their last four games and sitting at 5-1 (2-0 ACC). Meanwhile the Hokies have dropped two straight and are 3-3 (1-1 ACC) and seem like they are, for the first time in their ACC history, not the better team in this matchup.
That in no way shape and form means Duke will win. Winning is something relatively new to this program that has struggled so mightily over the years, but they are confident and that helps.
Virginia Tech has struggled on both sides of the ball failing to provide a running game to take at least some pressure off quarterback Logan Thomas, who for all the talent, can’t make the offense click all by himself. They lack of an elite running back or receiver has forced the offense into an inconsistent play.
The defense, which has been the backbone of Virginia Tech Football for a long time has also had its fair share of struggles. They gave up 48 points to North Carolina and allowed a kick off returned for a touchdown. That is almost unheard of with a Beamer coached team; special teams is his thing after all.
This game offers a big challenge for Duke, but it isn’t one that is so big. As I learned in my inside look with the Hokie Guru, the Hokies have recently missed some in recruiting of late and their talent level isn’t so far above Duke’s where the Blue Devils stand no chance.
The Blue Devils could very likely have Sean Renfree back in as starter but still could use Anthony Boone situationally to keep the Hokies defense on their toes. But even if Renfree can’t play or isn’t at full speed, Boone did prove himself last week against Virginia but playing at Virginia Tech is a whole different animal.
There is some chance that perhaps defensive end Justin Foxx or defensive tackle Jamal Bruce, who have not played since week one in Foxx’s case or at all in Bruce’s, could be back as soon as Saturday would be a big boon for the Blue Devil’s defense.
I suspect that Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, seeing Duke’s improved rushing attack with Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead and Jela Duncan will spend some times trying to fill the gaps in his rush defense that got torched by UNC’s Giovanni Bernard last week. He will most likely try to stuff the run in an effort to force the Blue Devils to become more one dimensional on offense.
On offense I’m also expecting the Hokies to perhaps try an aggressive push to challenge Duke’s improving defense: a defense that held Virginia to just two yards rushing and zero points in the second half of last week’s game. I expect Thomas to be the driving force as he has been all year.
This could yet again be a tight game and could come down to the forth quarter much like last year in Durham, where the Blue Devil’s redzone woes and the Hokies veterans proved to be the ultimate difference.
Duke- 21 Virginia Tech-17
I am going against my better judgment and predict a Duke victory. The odds makers like the Hokies because they are at home and in the last 10 years or so Frank Beamer just doens’t lose three straight. The facts seems to suggest I should stay away from picking Duke, but it is my site and if I want to be a homer this once I can do it.
There is something in my gut that tells me that this game is going to be tight and the balls are going to finally bounce Duke’s way. Really they have been this entire season. The Blue Devils are much better this year in the redzone, something that cost them dearly last year in Durham against Virginia Tech.
The special teams, including the kicking game has become a weapon and I fully expect that won’t be a liability in this game like it has been in the past. And again I feel like this game will come down to the fourth quarter with Duke scoring a late touchdown to give them a lead and their defense will be strong enough to hold on in the end.
I could be wrong, I’ve been wrong plenty times before but something just feels special about this team. And with only one more win until they become bowl eligibility, I think this is the perfect situation to break that bowl drought and continue what has already been a special season now that their confidence is high.
It won’t be easy, nothing ever is for visitors at Lane Stadium, but I think a better than average Duke team can beat a less than typical Virginia Tech team in a tough environment. I may be one of the few, but I think the Blue Devils will bring back the W on Saturday.
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