Duke. Rarely the most exciting matchup on the ACC slate. When Duke is on the rise, the games are unbearable to watch because your brain can't quite seem to comprehend a world in which Duke football dominance is a thing. When Duke is Duke, terror dominates the lead-up because you have no idea what you're in store for that afternoon.
Over the last decade or so, this matchup has been...weird. We've seen (perceived) break-out performances (hello J.C. Coleman!) and some migraine-inducing losses (the 2013 debacle in Lane). My personal favorite was the 2008 Ice Bowl of Crap, which saw the Hokies eek out a 14-3 win thanks to Macho Harris' game-sealing pick six with 1:23 remaining. My enduring memory of that game (aside from the 16 punts)? "Tailgating" in my father-in-law's pickup truck eating Jimmy John's subs that more closely resembled freeze pops. For all of our collective sanity, let's hope that Saturday's game plays out true to each team's form.
On to the (fake) lines!
Over/Under: 30.5% of fans in attendance will be Hokies
Brian: Over. To their credit, the Duke faithful have gotten a ton better as a football fanbase since David Cutcliffe took over. But it's been a down year for the Blue Devils. They're the only team in the ACC without a conference win, which may limit their showing. Add to the fact that Durham is one of the easiest places for large pockets of Hokies to get to (it's two hours from Richmond and Charlotte, three from Blacksburg and the Tidewater region), and the stadium should be significantly maroon.
One bit of warning, though: Just because a ton of Tech fans flock to one place does not necessarily guarantee a victory. Not to bring up a sore subject, but one of us writing this article sat in the press box in Winston Salem two years ago. I watched the sea of maroon and orange pour into BB&T Field, and then watched them silently sulk back to their cars after the Hokies fell to an inferior Wake Forest squad.
Moral of the story: Don't count your chickens before the Fighting Cutcliffe's have a chance to steal them.
Pierson: Over. Tons of Hokies live in The Triangle and will be more than happy to take over Wallace Wade Stadium. The weather will be a significant improvement over the UNC game and there are plenty of tickets available (have you seen the images from the Duke-UVa game?). Even when the ACC Coastal had turned into Bizarro World and Cutcliffe's kids were atop the division, it wasn't like the environment in Cameron Indoor had made its way across campus to football games. Maybe the running track that encircles the field was a bit of a buzzkill for the Cameron Crazies. Maybe they didn't even know they had a football team.
This season, Dookies have been forced to watch (or continue to largely ignore) a team that has lost their starting quarterback, #1 defensive back and leading rusher (among others). With a surge of excitement surrounding the Virginia Tech program, I expect Carolina Hokies to show up en masse to support the Coastal Division leaders.
Over/Under: 349 yards of total offense for Duke
Brian: Over. An over-aggressive Hokie defense has been burnt multiple times in each of the last three outings. Syracuse beat Mook Reynolds deep early on, Brad Kaaya found open receivers on a semi-regular basis (when he had time to throw), and even Pittsburgh's Nathan Peterman hit a few long ones last Thursday.
Duke hasn't been afraid to air things out this season, as freshman quarterback Daniel Jones has attempted more than 35 passes on four different occasions. Though the Blue Devils' output has been hot and cold, I'll gamble on the current trend we've seen from the Hokie defense and think they'll give up a decent chunk of yards (and hopefully not that many points).
Pierson: After a generally strong start to the season, the Tech defense has dropped off a bit over the last three games. The Hokies enter Saturday surrendering over 461 yards per game since their domination of UNC, while Duke's offense got back on track last weekend at Georgia Tech (559 yards).
David Cutcliffe's offense is not too different from Justin Fuente's, taking what's given before exploiting matchups and tendencies. The glaring difference between the two teams is talent, especially considering the rash of injuries to key Blue Devils. Not counting last year's 4 OT slugfest, Duke is averaging a meager 274 yards of total offense versus the Hokies during the Cutcliffe Era, and has topped 329 yards once (397 yards in 2009). Give me the under.
TEASER! Over/Under: 6.5 times the ESPNU announcers discuss ACC basketball and 2.5 Harry Giles mentions
Brian: Oh a teaser? We're into fancy gambling now? Is this a silent cry for help from Pierson?
I wouldn't put either of these in a teaser, because I think they'll both be under. We'll see the obligatory shots of Cameron Indoor Stadium, a little jovial Krzyzewski talk and possibly one conversation about hoops. But let's get one thing straight about many of the ESPNU crews. They need to have their entire focus on the football happening on the field, because if not things could go incredibly wrong. If this was an ESPN crew? I'd easily tease this up. But we're talking about things in the B-team broadcasting repertoire, not whatever crew will roll up in Durham on Saturday.
Pierson: I'll take the announcers (-7.5) and Giles mentions (-1.5). ACC basketball discussion seems inevitable on Saturday, what with the season tipping off the following week and all. On one sideline is Duke, who enters the 2015-16 basketball season as the preseason No. 1 and boasts the addition of consensus freshman sensation Harry Giles to an already stacked lineup. On the other sideline is Virginia Tech, a school widely considered a NCAA tourney sleeper pick and program on the rise.
If the announcers don't actually discuss the games at length, you know ESPN will at least be plugging the season tip-off whenever they can — think Fox's "Undisputed" adds throughout the World Series, but less desperate. And with Giles on the mend, you've got a built-in rhetorical storyline of, "How will the Dookies play without and with potential superstar Harry Giles as he recovers from injury?" Consider yourself warned.
Rank 'Em Most to Least: Total yards rushing between Travon McMillian, Marshawn Williams, Sam Rogers, Jerod Evans and Cam Phillips
Brian: I think it'd be ridiculous to take anything away from the rushing performance in Pittsburgh last week. Travon will still have the best day out of the group, because he's the best running back on the roster. I'm also going to bet that Evans' mobility and usefulness in the run game will be limited after his rolled ankle against the Panthers.
So I'll guess McMillian, Phillips, Evans, Williams, and Rogers.
...Oh, I need to give an answer? Okay. He didn't appear on the injury report, but the status of Jerod Evans' ankle will play a big role in this line. With that beings said, I still expect him to carry the football 6-10 times on Saturday. Duke's run defense has been somewhat enigmatic in 2016, as has the Tech run game distribution. I want to see Travon and Juice make statements on Saturday and show opposing staffs that this offense can dominate you through the air and on the ground — pick your poison.
I'll go with Travon, Jerod, Juice, Cam and Sam.
True or False? Cam Phillips will finish the game with more touches than Isaiah Ford
Brian: My initial reaction to this line was to ask you if you were high when you wrote it. But after a 10-catch game like he had last week, the coverage will be shifted Ford's way even further than it would have been already. Cam not only has the benefit of being "the other guy" between Ford and Bucky Hodges, meaning favorable matchups in coverage, but also contributes in the run game. Thinking he'll get between three and five carries on Saturday to add to his reception total, I'll actually take Cam over Isaiah.
Pierson: False. Duke is without leading defensive back Devon Edwards and has been leaning on a group of experienced, but vertically-challenged, defensive backs in his stead. We saw last week how the Hokies prey on undersized corners, exploiting the physical and talent advantages of their receivers play after play. While I don't expect to see a second consecutive week of Lob City, I would be surprised if Isaiah Ford didn't see a healthy dose of targets against the Dookies.
Matchup Over/Under: 52.5
Brian: This is a weird line. At first it seems like an obvious over, considering the kind of offensive output we've seen from the Hokies over the last two games. Add in a few scores for Duke, and it should push over. But the Blue Devils' defense has been sneaky-decent, only giving up 23.9 points a game, and held Lamar Jackson and Louisville to a meager 24. I'll still go with the over, and a score like 38-17 Hokies.
Pierson: On the season, FBS games involving the Blue Devils have hit the over on this line 3 out of 7 times. Despite all of the scoring we've seen from the the Hokies, Tech games vs. FBS opponents have topped this figure just 4 out of 7 times.
What gives me pause is the fact that Cutcliffe's teams have the ability to be pesky on both sides of the football, preying on opponents who overlook perceived talent gaps. Since Tech joined the ACC, this matchup has produced some real duds on the scoreboard. Only 4 out of the last 10 matchups have beaten this Over/Under. I don't feel 100% confident in this matchup number, so I'm going to take the under.
Spread: Virginia Tech (-11.5)
Brian: I'm big on the line for Tech. Like I said above, I think they'll handle Duke with relative ease, 38-17. But last time I said this, I thought they'd beat the orange off Syracuse. I'm going into this game with high expectations, especially since the Hokies have had 10 days to rest, yet still ready for any sort of outcome.
Pierson: At first glance, this spread felt like an easy Tech cover. The Hokies average 11.8 points per game more than the Blue Devils and should be playing in a friendly environment this weekend. But then I think about the variables: Jerod Evans' ankle and the staff's willingness to give him a full green light (I tend to think they do); the challenges associated with playing away from home; an inflated sense of confidence leading guys to overlook a 3-5 team; and the fact that Cutcliffe is a very smart guy.
The Hokies are 4-4 against the spread this season (1-3 on the road), but they're going up against a team that they are superior to (on paper) in every category. I see the Hokies continuing to chug right along on Saturday. I'm taking the Hokies and laying the points.
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.