Game Preview: Duke

Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1, 3-0) against Duke Blue Devils (5-2, 1-2)

Time: 3:32 PM
Date: Saturday, October 25, 2013
Place: Blacksburg, Virginia
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech -13.5
Weather: 33-48 F, Partly Cloudy

The Skinny

By: Joe

Thank you Duke for beating the Hoos, again.

Players to Watch

By: French

Jamison Crowder (#3): Crowder is a 5-9 junior wide receiver and punt returner that serves as both Duke's most dependable first down generator and big play guy. Crowder leads the ACC in catches (56), receiving yards (731), punt return yardage (297) and punt return touchdowns (2) coming into Saturday's game. Most of his catches happen via screens, slants, or quick curls, but he can go deep and has an uncanny ability to get himself open with double moves. Here, the pocket breaks down after Crowder runs a skinny post.

By the (Advanced) Numbers: Duke

Having a sufficient sample size, I'm now able to dive a little deeper into the personalities of each team as I preview them from a statistical perspective...but first a tribute to our defense. Statistically of course.

Football Outsiders uses two rating systems—S&P+ (which I use for overall team ratings in previews) and FEI (an efficiency-based method). This week, these are the FEI top 5 defenses:

  1. Virginia Tech (-0.926)
  2. Stanford (-0.779)
  3. Alabama (-0.739)
  4. Michigan State (-0.672)
  5. Missouri (-0.661)

"Foe"Rensics: Duke

Hello. Welcome back to our regular "Foe"Rensics feature. This week we'll delve inside the Duke football program. Though it is clearly not the strength of the athletic department1, Duke is not a challenge to be overlooked, especially as it is the last game before we enter the sweet embrace of November Hokie football.

Q&A with Ben Swain

I caught up with Ben Swain, better known as @thedevilwolf on Twitter, to ask him some questions about Duke. He obliged me. As well as being the most knowledgeable Duke football fan I know, he's also a college basketball nut (go figure). After football season, Listen to his work as the co-host of the critically acclaimed Walk-Ons podcast.

What are two things the Hokies must do on Saturday in order to defeat the Blue Devils? (I hope that questions lends itself to two answers other than score more points.) You may also read this question as, what are Duke's two biggest weaknesses?

This is such a favorable matchup for Virginia Tech because Logan's really good when he has time to set his feet and make a throw, and Duke has a difficult time getting quality pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. When they have been able to get penetration, Duke still struggles wrapping up in the backfield and we all know how difficult that is to do against Logan Thomas anyway. Why is this important? If he has time to be accurate, he should pick Duke apart. So if I'm picking two things that Virginia Tech needs to do well, it's getting good protection for Logan Thomas, and not turning the ball over. Duke and Virginia Tech have played some partially competitive games over the past four or five seasons, and it's been mostly because the Hokies have been careless with the football.

#goacc Power Rankings: Week 8

"OH WHAT THE HELL?!?"

It was a completely appropriate question. I had just checked college football scores on my phone, and at that moment Virginia, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech were up (or won) by a combined score of 102 to 3. And while the question itself was appropriate, asking it out loud in the back of a car driven by my girlfriend's mom was probably not as appropriate.

The thing is, I didn't even care. It was a weird thing to do in a week that was way too weird.

In honor of the weekend that played games with so many people's hearts, I'm also breaking down the teams into which video game they would be, and why.

The Challenge of a Running Quarterback: Stopping Duke's Offense

On Saturday, the Duke Blue Devils come to Lane Stadium in search of their first win over Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004. Over the last couple of seasons, the series has featured some close games featuring the innovative passing attack of the Blue Devils matched up against the superior talent of the Hokie defense.

Traditionally, Duke has featured a pro-style passing attack, operated by quarterbacks like Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree. This season, head coach David Cutcliffe has changed his system from a passing oriented spread offense to a balanced spread no huddle heavily focused on the running ability of his two quarterbacks. While each quarterback has strengths that lend themselves to specific types of plays, they operate interchangeably and both can run the full assortment of read option, triple option (dive, keep, or throw to the flat) and inverted veer that come with the spread.

Redshirt junior Anthony Boone (#7) is the starting quarterback for the Blue Devils and takes most of the snaps. He may look short (6-0), spindly (skinny arms and legs), and a little chunky (230 pounds), but Boone is a dangerous prototypical spread quarterback who excels running the read option.

Self-Scouting the Hokies

Last week, Shane Beamer mentioned that the coaching staff would spend the bye week "self-scouting". The staff likely evaluated individual performances by personnel and used statistical analysis to identify play calling trends. Statistical analysis can help provide insight into what plays were effectively executed, which ones may be chafe, and what pages of the playbook are best to turn to in critical situations during the meat of the ACC schedule.

Aside from the kick and punt return teams, the running game has been the biggest concern of the Virginia Tech fan base. I used the downtime to do my own deep dive on the Virginia Tech running game, focused on Alabama, Georgia Tech, UNC, and Pitt to try to unravel anything that can be done from a personnel/playcalling/scheme perspective to make the running game more effective. Most of my observations aligned closely with Mason's breakdown of the Pitt film last week. Yards are being left on the field as result of the occasional offensive line, tight end, or wide receiver missed assignments, poor reads on option, or being outnumbered at the point of attack. In addition to those observations, a couple of other critical realities emerged, and the staff will need to adjust accordingly to defeat the remaining teams on the ACC schedule.

Kendrick Holland Committed to Virginia Tech.

Kendrick Holland from Winter Haven, Florida is the latest wide receiver to join the Hokies 2014 recruiting class.

Both Rivals.com and 247Sports rate Holland as a 3-star prospect. Holland selected the Hokies over Kentucky and Minnesota among others.

Logan Thomas, his receivers and “catch efficiency”

Editor's Note: After you finish reading, it'll become obvious that Zach put an enormous amount of effort into charting and subsequent analysis. Bumped to front. Enjoy. --Joe

During the week leading up to the Georgia Tech game on Sept. 26, I saw a lot of Internet hate going Logan Thomas' way. Through four games in 2013, Thomas, once touted as a top-five NFL draft prospect, had completed just 65 of his 134 passes for a miserable 48.5 completion percentage, four touchdowns and six interceptions already one more than his goal for the season.

As many know, Logan performed admirably in 2011, completing 59.8 percent of his passes for 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. However, during his first year as Frank Beamer's starting signal caller, Thomas was surrounded by a myriad playmakers, including the top two receivers, statiscally speaking, in school history in Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, as well as David Wilson, who would run for a school-record 1,709 yards that season.

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