Thursday, October 21, 2010

Game Preview - vs. Duke

Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Kickoff: 12:10 p.m.
Lane Stadium/Worsham Field
Blacksburg, VA

This Saturday, the Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Bluke Doo Devils. After coming out of the gate with an 0-2 record, the Virginia Tech Hokies have managed to win three straight and put themselves first in the Coastal division of the ACC, as well as earning a ranking of 25 in the BCS and 23 across the major polls. Each win has made the squad look a little better. The season to this point has a some interesting things to recognize buried deep in the stats. First, eight different players carried the football rushing against Wake Forest. This clearly delineates the depth at the tailback position. Five different players earned touchdowns against the Demon Deacons, including the backup quarterback on a received pass. In their last three contents, the Hokies have score more than 40 points. The Hokies earned 35 first downs against the Demon Deacons, the second most for any squad in the Virginia Tech history.

But all of this makes for no reason not to take Duke seriously. The Hokies, having won the last nine meetings, look to extend that streak to ten, but if the James Madison DUKES can take down the Hokies, so can the DUKE Blue Devils. And let's not forget that Duke gave Virginia Tech a pretty good scare last year where the Hokies only won 34-26.

So how's Duke looking these days? They earned their only win against Elon in their season opener. Since then, they've faced Alabama, Army, and a few ACC teams. They took a beating from Alabama and Army, but they have actually played competitively against their ACC opponents, most of whom beat them by a touchdown or less. Wake Forest stands as the only common opponent thus far between the two squads. Wake Forest edged them out in a high scoring shootout 54-48. Virginia Tech only scored 4 more points on the Demon Deacons than did the Dukes, albeit the Hokies had second string players come into the game late in the third quarter. Of course the respective defensive performances contrast greatly. Against Wake Forest, the Hokies allowed 21 points, the Blue Devils 54. Duke, however, comes off their most impressive performance in the season thus far, at least by measure of the final score. In their previous contest against Miami, they lost 28-13.

Turning to game stats, Duke has an impressive total pass yards figure. They rank second in the ACC with 1663 total yards. In rushing, they're second from the basement with only 731 total yards. On passing defense, Duke has allowed less than they've gained, 1342 total yards. Defending against rushing, they again rank second from the basement allowing 1265 total yards.

Duke's offensive strategy probably will key off the same aspect that has given them gains throughout the season thus far. Sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree has a pass completion rate of 57%, and he has a lot to do with the aforementioned total passing yards for the season thus far. Wide Receiver Conner Vernon leads the ACC in receiving yards at 581. Donavan Varner stands sixth in the ACC with 436 total yards in receiving. Renfree has two receivers as his reliable go-to guys. And it doesn't even stop there. Austin Kelly ranks eleventh in the ACC with 329 yards on the season. Expect Duke to take to the air when squaring off against the Hokie defense. They will likely go to the secondary quite frequently and try to take advantage of the Hokies' inexperience there. However, they may run into less inexperience than they expect. Mistakes and all, I'm thinking our Hokie corners and safeties have looked pretty good.

On the defensive side, they will probably count on a strategy of moderate containment under the gamble that their offense will be able to get into the endzone. They'll expect the Hokies to lean on the run game. The Hokies have plenty of depth there, and Duke's defense hasn't stopped the run against lesser opponents. Duke may simply concede some of the run yardage while focusing on the secondary to prevent consistent short gains and long gains in passing. The Hokies, this season and seasons past, have struggled establishing a consistent short to mid-range passing game, and most gains in that area usually happen as a result of quarterback Tyrod Taylor doing a little scrambling first. If a few bad calls or flukes go Duke's way, this strategy could keep them in the game all the way into the final minutes.

All in all, if the Hokies don't look past this game and focus on it, they really should get the win. But if they don't keep their eye on the ball, they could drop this one. Let's hope they've learned that lesson from week two of this season.


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