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Duke (4-3) at Virginia (3-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 31st, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ESPN360.com. Home Record: Duke 2-2, Virginia 1-3. Away Record: Duke 2-1, Virginia 2-1. Neutral Record: Duke 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: Duke 2-1, Virginia 2-1. Series Record: Virginia leads, 32-28.
GAME NOTES: The Duke Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers are deadlocked in the ACC standings, but that will change this weekend when the two teams meet at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
The Blue Devils have gotten hot of late, with wins in two straight and three of their last four games overall. The defense came through with a couple of late stops in last week's 17-13 win over Maryland. Duke has played three road games thus far and the lone loss came at the hands of 22nd-ranked Kansas back in mid-September.
As for the Cavaliers, they are looking to rebound following last week's 34-9 loss to 11th-ranked Georgia Tech. The setback snapped a three-game win streak for the Cavs. They've struggled at home with a 1-3 record, and three of their final five games are in Charlottesville.
Virginia holds a 32-28 advantage in the all-time series, although Duke snapped an eight-game skid against the Cavs with a win in last year's meeting.
Duke boasts the ACC's top-ranked passing offense with an average of 322.6 yards per game, which ranks sixth out of 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The catalyst is quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, who has made big strides with his arm this season but can still beat defenses with his legs. Last week against Maryland, Lewis completed 30-of-43 passes for 371 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Donovan Varner (8 rec, 120 yds, TD) and Conner Vernon (5 rec, 102 yds) both went over 100 yards receiving, while Austin Kelly finished with 67 yards on nine catches. However, Lewis' 14 rushing yards represented a team-high, and that area has been a problem all year long. Duke ranks 115th in the nation in rushing offense, averaging just 74.4 yards per game.
The Duke defense has been a middle-of-the-pack unit for most of the season, though it is coming off an inspired effort against Maryland in which the team allowed a season-low 13 points. On the year, Duke ranks eighth in the ACC in total defense (343.1 ypg) and ninth in scoring defense (25.1 ppg). But last week, the Blue Devils yielded just 249 total yards, as Maryland made just one trip to the red zone. The 249 yards were 88 yards below the Terps' season average. Matt Daniels logged a team-high nine tackles for Duke, while Damian Thornton (2.5 TFL) and Vincent Rey (INT) each had eight. Rey leads the team with 57 tackles on the season, including five for loss. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Maryland.
Steady rains limited what Virginia was able to do on offense last week against Georgia Tech. So with the passing game essentially scratched, the Cavaliers turned to their 107th-ranked rushing offense, and the results were about what you'd expect when facing a nationally-ranked team like Georgia Tech. The Cavs finished with just 198 yards of total offense, including a mere 30 on the ground. They converted only 2-of-11 third downs and held the ball for only 17 minutes. Even with the weather, and the Yellow Jacket defense not cooperating, wideout Vic Hall managed to haul in a respectable five passes for 51 yards. Hall has emerged over the last few weeks. His 16 receptions over the last three games are twice the amount of any other UVA receiver in that span.
The strength of the Virginia defense is against the pass, as the Cavaliers rank fifth nationally in pass defense (151.3 ypg) and seventh in pass efficiency defense (95.6). They have not allowed a passing touchdown over the last four games, ranking second in the nation with just three passing TDs allowed on the season. The most passing yards the Cavs have allowed in a game this year was 190 against Indiana. This week, they'll certainly be tested by a Duke offense that likes to move the chains through the air. But they also must get their run defense in order. With heavy rains impacting play last week, Georgia Tech kept it on the ground against UVA and piled up 362 yards. Currently, the Cavs rank 11th in the ACC in run defense (164.4 ypg).
Virginia has won 12 of the last 13 meetings with Duke at Scott Stadium. For one reason or another, the Cavs always seem to put up a ton of points against Duke -- they've scored at least 30 in 15 of the last 26 meetings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 38, Duke 27
10/28 10:35:05 ET