It was a crazy game between Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh last Thursday night. Seemingly every pass play resulted in either a pass interference call or a missed pass interference call. Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi or Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster would then be seen screaming at the referees, with Narduzzi getting reprimanded by the league and the school fined for his criticism of the officials. Through it all, the Hokies edged the Panthers and maintained control of the ACC Coastal Division.
This week Virginia Tech heads down to Durham, N.C., to take on the Duke Blue Devils. Duke lost atGeorgia Tech last week to fall to 3-5 and 0-4 in the ACC. The Blue Devils will most likely miss the postseason this year, but with games remaining against both Virginia Tech and North Carolina, they will have a say as to who wins the Coastal this fall.
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 14-9, but Duke has won two of the last three.
Virginia Tech at Duke
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Virginia Tech -11
Three Things to Watch
1. Virginia Tech Offensive Red Zone Efficiency
Joey Slye has had a very good year kicking for Virginia Tech. But much of his success is related to having short field goal opportunities – 15-for-15 inside of 40 yards - because Virginia Tech has had trouble punching the ball over the goal line. In nine red zone chances against Pittsburgh, the Hokies scored just three touchdowns. Currently, Virginia Tech ranks 97th in red zone touchdown efficiency. Duke has pretty good defensive red zone numbers so the Hokies will have a test when they get inside the 20.
2. Duke Ball Security
No FBS team has lost more fumbles this season than Duke (12, tied with three others) and only Bowling Green and Kansas have more total turnovers (21). While Virginia Tech has had its own turnover problems on offense (also have 12 lost fumbles), Foster knows how to create havoc and force mistakes. The Hokies have 16 takeaways, good for a tie for 24th in the FBS. If Duke has any shot at pulling the upset over Virginia Tech, they cannot give the Hokies extra possessions.
3. How Jerod Evans Moves
Virginia Tech’s star quarterback will play even though he tweaked his ankle last Thursday night. But it remains to be seen how mobile Evans will be. The Duke pass defense is not bad but what the Blue Devils really do well is pressure the quarterback. Duke has five players with at least 2.5 sacks on the year and the 24 total quarterback take-downs are good for 19th nationally. If Evans is gimpy and can’t avoid the pressure, the Blue Devils’ defense could give Virginia Tech problems.
Another factor in this game is the mindset of both teams. It is true that Virginia Tech has much more to play for as the Hokies currently hold the keys to the ACC Coastal title. But after a big win in North Carolina, Justin Fuente’s team went flat on the road against Syracuse. This week Virginia Tech is coming off a victory that effectively eliminated Pittsburgh from the Coastal race and head to Duke, a team that knows that there is little hope that its season extends beyond Thanksgiving weekend. If the Hokies play smart and focused, they’re the better team and will win this game easy. If not, Duke is good enough to make it a game. I’m going with somewhere in between, as the Blue Devils hang around early before Virginia Tech pulls away late.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Duke 14
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.
(Top photo courtesy of www.hokiesports.com)