After its statement win against Miami a week ago, Virginia Tech must travel to Durham to face the Duke Blue Devils.
The Hokies are clearly the more talented team, and in theory should have no problem cruising by the Blue Devils.
However, if Tech suffers from an emotional letdown after the big win last week, Duke has the weapons to make the game very interesting.
Here are three keys to the game for each team, as they prepare for kickoff at 12:00 p.m.
Stretch the Field
Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis struggled in Duke’s first two games, but has since rebounded to throw for 783 yards and five touchdowns. In last week’s 49-14 win over North Carolina Central, Lewis threw for 189 yards and two scores, with no interceptions.
The Hokies have been vulnerable to the vertical passing game at times this season. Last week, Bud Foster found the right scheme for his group, blitzing early and often to put pressure on Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. Lewis is going to have to find receivers for passes over 15 yards on a frequent basis, or Kam Chancellor and the rest the Tech defense will just pin their ears back and disrupt Lewis all day.
Stack the Box
Duke’s defense is heavily overmatched in this game, but they will have to place an emphasis on stopping the run on Saturday. They currently rank 80th in rushing defense, which is not a good sign considering the Hokies boast the nation’s fifth-leading rusher, Ryan Williams.
The Blue Devils will have to pack the line of scrimmage with defenders to stop Williams, and leave their secondary in man coverage. They will have to roll the dice that Tyrod Taylor can’t beat them with his arm.
Unfortunately, Taylor is rapidly improving as a passer, and the Hokie receivers simply dominate their Duke counterparts. However, if Williams starts breaking loose on a regular basis, Duke has no chance.
With a loss to an FCS school and a blowout defeat against Kansas, Duke has every reason to believe they have no shot against the mighty Hokies. However, head coach David Cutcliffe must remind his team that only a year ago, the Blue Devils marched into Lane Stadium with a backup quarterback and nearly walked away with a win. If Duke doesn’t take this game to be its Super Bowl, the Hokies will stomp all over Cutcliffe and company. If they can come out and just believe they can win, they might hang around longer than the experts think.
The Hokies have not had a threat on offense like Williams in six years, and they need to take advantage of him. Against that questionable Duke defense, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring needs to dial up a heavy dose of carries for the freshman star. After running for 100 yards three straight weeks, this week seems to be setting up for a 200-yard performance, which would be the first in Williams’ young career.
Don’t sleep until halftime
Frank Beamer’s team has been receiving a lot of hype this week. As deserved as the attention is, Beamer must have his team prepared to play 60 minutes of solid football on Saturday.
Tech needs to come out early and put the game out of reach. So many teams in the ACC have played inconsistently from week to week this season, and the Hokies would love to be the surest bet in the league.
It would also serve the Hokies well to be able to give the reserves some solid playing time in the second half. Ju-Ju Clayton needs more in-game experience, and David Wilson needs a confidence-boosting game after struggling in his last two games. This is one of the only opponents on the Hokies’ schedule that could give the back-ups a chance to play significant minutes.
Last week, Bud Foster helped rediscover the magic touch on the Hokies’ defense that has made them one of the nation’s most feared this decade. Tech blitzed early and often, and came up with big turnovers in opportune moments to thrash Miami.
Nothing should change this week, as Foster should continue to play an aggressive style and help his unit continue to find its identity. Cody Grimm and Dorian Porch both enjoyed breakout performances last week in the blowout, so who will have that day this week? Jake Johnson sure seems ready to make a name for himself…
Some of the prognosticators are predicting a letdown game by the Hokies this week. They don’t necessarily think the Blue Devils will pull off the shocking upset, but expect the game to be closer than it should be.
I disagree. The Hokies know that one good win doesn’t mean anything in college football nowadays; it takes wins every week to make a team’s dreams come true. No matter how good they looked against the Hurricanes, a loss to the Blue Devils would ruin the Hokies season.
That being said, this one should get ugly. Final Score: Virginia Tech 55, Duke 10.