First place in the ACC Coastal on the line in Charlottesville
The ACC Coastal Division is already up for grabs, and Duke and Virginia will look to get one step closer to controlling their fate in the division. With Duke hitting the road after a win last week and Virginia looking to snap out of a two-game losing streak, the Blue Devils and Cavaliers have a lot on the line in the wide-open division race.
Virginia has dominated the series over the last four seasons, including last season's 28-14 victory in Durham. For Virginia to make it five straight wins against Duke, the Cavaliers need to find a way to get the offense to play more consistently. If they don't, the Blue Devils may score enough points on them to pick up their first win in Charlottesville since 2013.
Duke at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia -3.5
When Duke Has the Ball
Virginia's defense took a hit this week with the loss of defensive back Bryce Hall. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced Hall's season-ending injury earlier in the week after he had surgery on his ankle. With the loss of one of Virginia's top defensive players, the Cavaliers have bumped up Da'Vante Cross into the starting role. Fortunately for Virginia, the Duke passing game isn't exactly the most potent after seeing Daniel Jones head off to the NFL with the New York Giants.
Quentin Harris has led the Blue Devils with 1,183 passing yards and 11 touchdowns while being intercepted four times. Overall, it hasn't been all that bad for the Duke passing game, although Duke ranks 13th in the 14-team ACC in passing offense, just ahead of Georgia Tech.
Harris also has been a bit of a running threat for Duke. Coming into this week, Harris is the ACC's 10th-leading rusher with 380 yards and five touchdowns. Just behind Harris in the conference rushing rankings is teammate Deon Jackson with 361 yards and five scores. That will certainly give Virginia something to think about. Virginia has the nation's 11th-ranked defense, allowing 277.2 yards per game this season. Duke has averaged 34.2 points per game, a scoring average only three ACC teams have exceeded (Wake Forest, Louisville, and Clemson).
When Virginia Has the Ball
Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has had his ups and downs. There have been a few more downs in the last couple of games for Perkins with two touchdowns and two interceptions against Notre Dame and no touchdowns thrown in a loss at Miami. Maybe some home cooking will do Perkins well this week. the problem is the home field hasn't exactly been the most reliable environment for Perkins either with four touchdowns and four interceptions thrown in three home games.
Senior wide receivers Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed have combined to lead the Cavaliers with six combined touchdowns, and senior tight end Tanner Cowley has made some plays as well. Making big plays against Duke may be difficult though. Duke has held opponents to fewer than 400 yards of offense in all but the season opener (Alabama had 512 yards), but the Blue Devils did allow 5.05 yards per play last week against Georgia Tech.
This has the ingredients of a game that could very well be a back-and-forth contest, so turnovers will be a difference. Protecting the football is an area where both Duke and Virginia struggle with negative turnover margins coming into this game. Virginia's minus-seven (-7) is the worst in the ACC but the Cavaliers will do a better job here as they return home after two tough road losses. Virginia strikes early to regain some confidence and comes out on top with a key score late in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Virginia 31, Duke 27
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.