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Virginia Tech vs. Duke: Complete preview, prediction

The Hokies will be out for blood in this one.

NCAA Football: Duke at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

The turning point of Virginia Tech’s 2019 season occurred on Sept. 27 when Duke invaded Lane Stadium. It wasn’t pretty for the Hokies.

Duke rolled over Virginia Tech 45-10 in Tech’s worst home loss in 45 years.

To make matters worse, Duke faked a punt deep into the fourth quarter up 38-10. Virginia Tech Justin Fuente was not happy.

Last season’s game was the perfect storm of everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for the Hokies. Not only was their performance on the field abysmal, recruits were canceling visits, fans were jumping ship and the sky was falling.

Fuente and his staff went to work.

The Hokies turned their season around after that performance against Duke and nearly won the ACC Coastal title before falling to Virginia late.

It’s safe to say Fuente and his players have this game circled on their calendars.

When, where, TV & odds

When: Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020

Time: 4:00 p.m. ET

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C.

TV: ACC Network

Odds: Virginia Tech is 11-point favorites, per BetMGM

Series history

Virginia Tech leads the all-time series 17-10. This series began all the way back in 1937, when Duke defeated Virginia Tech 25-0 in Greensboro. The Blue Devils actually won the first six meetings — and by a big margin.

The Hokies did not score in the first three meetings that occurred in 1937, 1938 and 1948. In fact Duke won the first six meetings until 1969.

Since entering the ACC back in 2004, Virginia Tech holds a 13-3 edge over the Blue Devils. Before last season’s blowout, Duke’s two previous ACC wins over the Hokies were by a combined five points.

When Duke has the ball

Entering the season, Duke was expecting big things from quarterback Chase Brice. A grad transfer from Clemson, Brice hasn’t been good. He is completing just 51 percent of his passes with six interceptions and two touchdowns. He’s also been sacked nine times.

In last week’s loss to Virginia, head coach David Cutcliffe replaced Brice with Chris Katrenick at quarterback. Brice is expected to start this weekend and Virginia Tech’s defensive backs should be ready.

Senior running back Deon Jackson is a good player. He had 55 yards rushing and 45 yards receiving in Duke’s win last year. He also scored two touchdowns. He’s been bottled up this season, though.

Duke’s top player on offense is sophomore receiver Jalon Calhoun. As a freshman last fall, Calhoun caught 46 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns. In three games this season, he has eight receptions for 105 yards.

Senior tight end Noah Gray is Duke’s leading receiver with 13 receptions for 152 yards. Gray led all ACC tight ends in receptions a year ago and was second among Power Five tight ends in receptions.

Virginia Tech defensive end Justus Reed was outstanding in his debut. He had two sacks against NC State and sees a Duke offensive line that has already allowed 10 sacks.

Junior cornerback Brion Murray was terrific last week, too. The Hokies are hoping Jermaine Waller returns to the lineup against the Blue Devils.

Duke is averaging just 88 yards rushing per game. The Hokies allowed under four yards per attempt last week.

When Virginia Tech has the ball

Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister got the start at quarterback in place of Hendon Hooker last week and did a terrific job. When Burmeister was sidelined with a hand injury, Quincy Patterson came in and kept the offense moving, passing for two touchdowns while rushing for another.

Hooker should be back under center this week. But how many teams have a quarterback room like the Hokies in 2020?

Running back Khalil Herbert was a star in his debut for Virginia Tech. Herbert ran for over 100 yards, while also making a big play in the passing game. He should be set for another big game on Saturday, but it will not be quite as easy.

Raheem Blackshear also made his debut last week, scoring a touchdown. I would expect him to be more featured this week in the passing game.

Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson and James Mitchell will all be involved in the game this week with Hooker back at quarterback. Mitchell caught three passes and a touchdown one week ago.

It was a banner day for Virginia Tech’s offensive line last week. One matchup to watch this week is Duke senior defensive end Victor Dimukeje against Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw. Dimukeje is good and already has four sacks on the young season.

The Blue Devils have a quality front seven.

The pick

The Hokies are going to win this game. There, I said it. Duke’s offense will not present much of a challenge to Virginia Tech’s defense. I do expect Duke’s defense to be ready to play against the Hokies on offense.

This game means a lot to Fuente and his players. If they get ahead, they aren’t going to let up.

The Hokies will be more active in the air this week with Turner making multiple plays down the field. This is also the week where Tech’s offense unveils Blackshear as the ultimate weapon.

Virginia Tech 38 Duke 13