In the month of September, Duke and Virginia Tech both went 3-1. But since the arrival of October, the two Coastal Division programs are a combined 1-9 with the Hokies' win at Georgia Tech on Oct. 30 the lone victory for either team. This Saturday, one of them will add to their win column as they face off in Blacksburg.
The results for Duke (3-6, 0-5 ACC) have been especially ugly, as the Blue Devils have been outscored 216-70 in their five losses. Head coach David Cutcliffe is in his 14th season at Duke, and, after a wonderful run, there are questions about his status going forward. When it comes to hot seats, there are few warmer than Justin Fuente's at Virginia Tech. The 17-3 loss last Friday at Boston College (to drop Hokies to 4-5, 2-3 in conference play) may have sealed his fate, though a decision has not yet been made.
Since joining the ACC in 2003, Virginia Tech has owned this series, winning 14 and losing just three.
Duke at Virginia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia Tech -11
When Duke Has the Ball
The strength of the Duke offense this season has been running back Mataeo Durant. The senior has put up impressive numbers with 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns in the Devils' nine games. The problem is, no one else on the team has more than 200 rushing yards and the passing attack doesn't scare many defenses. Quarterback Gunnar Holmberg has completed 69 percent of his throws, and Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun are reliable targets, but Holmberg has also thrown just seven touchdowns — there aren't a lot of big plays in through the air.
Another lingering issue for Duke has been turnovers. Last year, their 39 giveaways were far and away worst in the nation. This season, they have 17, which is an improvement but is tied for worst in the ACC and is 111th in all of FBS. On top of just seven touchdown throws, Holmberg has also thrown six interceptions and the team has lost 10 fumbles, which ranks 123rd.
For all of Virginia Tech's warts this season, they are olus-three in turnover margin in large part due to their nine interceptions. Cornerback Jermaine Waller is having an all-conference season with four picks and 39 tackles. After compiling nine sacks in the first two games, the Hokies have had just 10 in their last seven contests. Getting back to applying pressure will be an important step in forcing Duke into making mistakes this weekend.
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
Quarterback Braxton Burmeister suffered a rib injury early in the Boston College game and is questionable for Duke. Knox Kadum took over and the results were not very good. Kadum was 7-for-16 for just 73 yards, and the result was just three points. Led by Malachi Thomas and Raheem Blackshear, the rushing attack did churn out 163 yards, but it wasn't nearly enough.
In reality, this was not a one-off situation. Virginia Tech is 13th in the ACC in total offense and has eclipsed the 400 total yard mark just twice this season. The passing game, even with Burmeister, has been bad, and the offensive line has been very inconsistent. At this point, it would be foolish to expect anything more through the air, especially if Kadum is running the show. So it will be more of Thomas and Blackshear this week as the Hokies try to control the clock.
Finding what Duke does well on defense is a difficult proposition. Tech should be able to run against a defense that is giving up 183 yards per game, but if there's anyone the Hokies can effectively throw against it is Duke. The Devils are allowing 308 yards passing per game, and the one program in America that is worse is, interestingly, Michigan State. The only team on their schedule that didn't throw for more than 260 yards versus Duke was North Carolina A&T in Week 2. It will be interesting to watch the floundering Virginia Tech passing game go against Duke's anemic pass defense.
Few teams in the country are scuffling as much as Duke and Virginia Tech. And while the Hokies have a host of issues, Duke's play in their last five games has been as bad as it gets. Actually, it goes back much further than that. On Oct. 12, 2019, Duke beat Georgia Tech to go to 4-2 on the season. Since that moment, the Blue Devils are 6-20. In their final home game of the season, Virginia Tech will get to 5-5 with an easy win over Duke.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Duke 10
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— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.