After losing back-to-back games to North Carolina and Wake Forest, the Virginia Cavaliers have been on a roll as of late.
Virginia (4-2, 2-2 ACC) defeated the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 30 and followed that up with a narrow 34-33 win against Louisville on the road. After two close road victories, the Cavaliers will return to Scott Stadium this weekend to host the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke (3-3, 0-2) has lost its last two games, a 38-7 blowout by North Carolina and a 31-27 setback to Georgia Tech last Saturday. David Cutcliffe's team has been particularly bedeviled by bad defense this season.
Virginia holds a 39-33 series advantage against Duke as the two teams have met every year since 1963. The Cavaliers have won six in a row over the Blue Devils, including a 38-20 season-opening victory last year at Scott Stadium.
Duke at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 16 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Virginia -11
When Duke Has the Ball
Duke's rushing attack has been its strength this season with Mataeo Durant making a strong case for All-ACC honors.
Against Georgia Tech, Durant amassed 152 rushing yards and a touchdown on a school-record 43 carries. On the season, Durant is tied with Syracuse's Sean Tucker for the conference lead with 791 rushing yards. His nine touchdowns on the ground also have him tied Tucker for second in the conference (Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has 10).
If Duke is going to come away with the upset victory, quarterback Gunnar Homberg will have to play a significant role. He finished with 292 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech. Virginia is giving up 226.7 yards per game through the air, so Homberg should have opportunities to generate big plays when the Cavaliers focus their defensive attention on slowing down Durant.
When Virginia Has the Ball
Durant won't be the only All-ACC candidate in Charlottesville on Saturday, as Brennan Armstrong has been arguably the conference's top quarterback thus far. Statistically speaking, Armstrong has put up better numbers than the likes of North Carolina's Sam Howell and Clemson's D.J. Uiagalelei, both of whom got more buzz entering the season.
In six games, Armstrong has thrown for 2,460 yards, 17 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He leads the nation in passing yards, and his 410 per-game average is second only to WKU's Bailey Zappe. Last week against Louisville, Armstong orchestrated the Cavaliers' rally as they came back from down 17 points in the fourth quarter to win 34-33. Armstrong finished that game with 487 yards and three touchdowns on 40-of-60 passing.
He should encounter little resistance on Saturday against a Duke defense that is one of the worst in the country. The Blue Devils are giving up 263.5 yards per game, which is nearly 150 fewer than Armstrong himself is averaging, but still places Duke 106th in the FBS.
Georgia Tech's Jeff Sims threw for 297 yards and three scores himself against the Blue Devils last week, giving you an idea of the type of success Armstrong could enjoy against the visiting team.
While Duke has the weapons to make Saturday's game entering, it is going to come down to if the Blue Devils can even slow down Virginia's offense. Armstrong has been the catalyst for the Cavaliers all season, and Saturday shouldn't be any different.
Look for Armstong to complete big plays to Ra'Shaun Henry, who caught nine passes for 179 yards against Louisville last week. Converted quarterback Keytaon Thompson also recorded 10 catches for 132 yards and can gain big chunks of yardage whenever the ball is in his hands.
Simply put, Virginia's offense should be too much for an overmatched Duke defense to try and contain.
Prediction: Virginia 41, Duke 34
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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.