It's no secret the Blue Devils have taken a step back this season, but recent history has shown Virginia Tech vs. Duke to be close every year. Will the pattern repeat in 2017. Will Duke finally have a breakthrough game. Or will the Hokies assert that they are the class of the Coastal and ensure the Miami game is the de facto division championship?
Where the Season Stands
Virginia Tech is currently 6-1 and has ensured their nation-leading bowl streak (insert asterisk here) will continue. Virginia was dominated by Boston College and is not yet ready to start a bowl streak. The actual and predicted score difference and odds of winning each game are:
The odds of each possible regular season win total are now:
The current projection predicts nearly a 77% chance of the Hokies posting a 10+ win regular season, and an 8.5% chance of running the table the remainder of the regular season.
Rankings and Computer Predictions
The computer rankings and predictions for each team:
Computers nearly universally regard Virginia Tech as a top 25 team, and much better than Duke. The odds of a 16.5-point favorite winning is 87.9%.
Next is a look at any overall offensive or defensive advantages:
The Hokies hold a slight advantage in offensive ability, and a very large advantage in defensive ability.
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
Who has the advantage in the passing and rushing game when the Tech offense has the ball?
Thus far Tech has been much more successful passing than rushing, and yet has struggled significantly in obvious passing situations. Duke is not particularly good at defending either pass or rush, and does equally mediocre whether in standard downs or passing downs.
Offensive and defensive line performance are compared using Football Outsiders' metrics:
Now let's take a look at the FEI personality traits of the Hokie offense versus the Blue Devil defense:
The Duke defense presents a challenge for the Hokies, as the strength of each is 3-and-out drives and turnovers. Tech is good at avoiding 3-and-outs, and Duke's defense is good at producing them. Tech also doesn't turn the ball over much, but the Duke defense creates many turnovers.
The Virginia Tech offense is closest in personality to:
- LSU (is that a compliment?)
- Miami (I just threw up a little.)
- Washington State
The Duke defense is closest in personality to:
- Colorado State
When Duke Has the Ball
Again, examine pass-run comparisons first:
The Blue Devils are a decent rushing team, but horrid at passing despite having the talented Daniel Jones at quarterback. The Hokies have been excellent at both defending the rush and the pass.
Offensive and defensive line performance are again compared using Football Outsiders' metrics:
As for personality traits:
The only category in which the Blue Devils have been remotely respectable has been avoiding 3-and-outs (first down rate), but the Hokies are among the best in the country at causing them.
The Virginia Tech defense is closest in personality to:
- Ohio State
- South Florida
The Duke offense is closest in personality to:
First we look at the Hokie's kicking units:
No surprises here: the Hokies have disappointed in kicking field goals but are great at preventing them and at returning kicks, both kickoffs and punts.
When the Blue Devils kick:
The Blue Devils are excellent at kickoffs and kick returns, but the latter should be severely limited by Joey Slye's proficiency at attempting field goals on kickoffs. On the other hand, the Devils are terrible at punt returns.
Who To Watch Out For
Jones is still very talented, but doesn't seem to have the support around him this season to post numbers similar to his fabulous freshman campaign. He completed 270 of 430 passes in 2016 (62.8%) for 16 TDs and 9 INTs. Thus far in 2017, Jones completed 158 of 290 passes (54.5%) for 1,670 yards, 8 TDs, and 6 INTs. However, Duke does have a couple of significant playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
- R-SO LB Joe Giles-Harris is tied No. 2 in the country in tackles for loss with 13.5 and tied No. 11 in the country with 75 tackles (32 solo, 43 assisted).
- JR S Jeremy McDuffie is tied No. 3 in the country in passes defended (3 INT, 9 PBU).
- SR RB Shaun Wilson is No. 23 in the country in kickoff return average with 25.94 yards per return, but it won't matter because Joey Slye is No. 2 in the country in touchback percentage.
Statistical Key to the Game
The Duke offense has not impressed thus far, while Bud Foster's Lunch Pail Defense is firing on all cylinders. Don't expect the Blue Devils to score many points on offense. However, the Devils' defense is respectable, and can pose some significant challenges if the Hokies allow themselves to get into passing downs where they struggle. Converting on third downs will be critical, and the best way to do that is to avoid significant yardage to go. Therefore, my stat of the game is yards-to-go on third down for the Hokies to prevent obvious passing downs.
I'm genuinely surprised at the big step back the Blue Devils have taken this season and believe they will return to form and respectability. Just not until 2018. The season is deep enough to have a good idea of what a team is made of, and at the moment there is no reason to believe Duke can consistently move the ball on Virginia Tech. I think the offense disappoints a little, but the game doesn't come down to the wire and is put away by the fourth quarter.
Virginia Tech 30, Duke 13
As always a thanks to Football Outsiders, cfbstats.com, and Minitab Statistical Software.