Week 11 Preview: Duke
The Duke Blue Devils are having the season some Hokie fans may have wished for themselves. A surprising campaign in the ACC where Duke is already bowl eligible at 6-3. The Hokies come off another grueling loss to Georgia Tech where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory much like the week prior. Virginia Tech will look to gain some momentum in these last 3 games again to build something for what Hokie fans hope is an offseason full of growth and development. Duke on the other hand is still not eliminated from the Costal Division race yet, though their chances of making the ACC title game are very slim. This matchup faces off two foes with vastly different narratives on the year. Mike Elko has come in a rejuvenated this Duke team who was 0-8 in the ACC last year. It is one of the more impressive year-to-year flips in recent memory in the whole country. The Hokies on the other hand are reeling. They have shown more promise then their record will show but the results have been bleak. This noon showdown in Durham will show the character of this Hokie team, but lets take a look at what the Blue Devils will trot out against Virginia Tech this weekend.
Offense: Riley Leonard the sophomore from Fairhope, AL has really shown his chops this year and makes this Duke offense go. He has a solid 1,851 yard through the air with a TD to interception ratio of 11-4. The more impressive stat for him however is that he leads the team in rushing with 577 yards which is over 100 yards clear of the next challenger. The Duke offense is predicated heavily on the run and along with Riley comes a stable of backs who rotate often to stay fresh. Jordan Waters (r-Jr) leads the yardage battle with 461 yards. Jaquez Moore comes in with 396 yards and a staggering 6.8 YPC on 58 carries this year. The trio is rounded out by Jaylen Coleman (r-Jr) with 307 yards. The offensive line group has been great all year for the Blue Devils anchored by an all-ACC season from left tackle Graham Barton who has been highly graded by PFF at 87.0 this year. The Hokie defense will have to force the Blue Devils into obvious passing downs to be successful against this group because if they are able to dictate their will on the ground, they will be able to control this game easily.
The Duke pass catchers are led by Jalon Calhoun (Sr) who has 36 catches for 491 yards and on the other end will be a familiar name to Hokie fans in Jordan Moore who has 32 catches for 331 yards on the year. Moore played quarterback for Duke last year against the Hokies and switched over to WR in the offseason. Duke lost Eli Pancol to injury in the game against Miami, so these two undersized guys are their main two for the game on Saturday. The Hokies should have a leg up against the receivers, and a key to the game will be to make them beat this defense and really commit to stop the running attack.
Defense: New head man Mike Elko comes in as a former defensive coordinator and has brought some improvement to the Duke unit overall. They have struggled against elite offenses like North Carolina, but the defense has kept this team in games. Darius Joiner (Sr) has been a big bright spot for the Duke defense this year at safety. He leads the team in tackles with 70 and is also third on the team in sacks with 3. DeWayne Carter is anchoring the defensive line and leads the team in sacks with 4.5 and TFLs with 9. Carter plays primary in the interior of this line and has been an absolute game wrecker at times this year.
The Duke defense has really benefited from takeaways and staying mistake free themselves. They are in the top 3 in FBS this year in turnover margin. The Hokies will have to play a clean game to win in Durham. The linebacker unit that Duke has is a veteran group highlighted by Shaka Hayward (Sr). Hayward is right behind Joiner in the tackles with 66 and is a smart and solid player. The two keys to success for the Hokies against this defense is not turning the ball over and generating big plays to Kaleb Smith. The Hokies at this point of the season have nothing to lose so expect some deep shots and wrinkles in the offensive scheme.
Prediction: This is most likely going to be a far cry from the game last year where the Hokies dominated the Blue Devils at home 48-17. The turnover battle has been a huge reason for Duke’s success this year because they have been able to generate takeaways and then sit on the ball with their impressive running game. This one could get out of hand if the Hokies can’t clean up the fumbles and picks from Wells. We will see what the Hokies are made of coming off two of the toughest losses of the season where the Hokies saw themselves up double digits late in the game in both. There is only pride on the line for the Hokies as they have been eliminated from bowl eligibility and the Costal race. Brent Pry’s motivational ability will be in the spotlight in Durham this Saturday. I think we will see a fight in the Hokies, but this Duke team just does a lot of things right and is sound on both sides of the ball. I expect it to be a close game again but Duke will eek one out late with their ability to run it and tire out this Virginia Tech front.
Duke 27 Virginia Tech 21