Duke (5-1) at Virginia Tech (3-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 12:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lane Stadium (65,632) -- Blacksburg, Virginia. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: Duke 4-0, VT 3-0. Away Record: Duke 1-1, VT 0-2. Neutral Record: Duke 0-0, VT 0-1. Conference Record: Duke 2-0, VT 1-1. Series Record: VT leads, 12-7.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Tech Hokies have struggled of late, but they'll try to continue their dominance over the Duke Blue Devils when the two meet up for an ACC clash on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies have won each of the last 11 meetings to take a 12-7 series lead, and that includes a 6-0 mark against the Blue Devils in Blacksburg.
However, Virginia Tech enters this tilt at 3-3, the first time the team has been at or below .500 this deep into a season since 1992. The Hokies have dropped three of their last four contests after being ranked as high as No. 13 in the polls. Most recently, they suffered a 48-34 setback at North Carolina this past weekend.
On the other sideline, Duke is off to its best start since 1994. The Blue Devils are already taking aim at their sixth win of the season, which last happened when that 1994 squad went 8-4. Their only loss so far this year came at 17th-ranked Stanford more than a month ago, and they are coming off a 42-17 rout over Virginia last week.
Duke senior wideout Conner Vernon hauled in seven passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia. With that effort, he became the ACC's all-time receptions leader with 239 catches, passing Clemson's Aaron Kelly. Vernon needs just 288 yards to break the ACC record for career receiving yards, held by Florida State's Peter Warrick. Redshirt sophomore Anthony Boone made his first career start against UVA, and he completed 18-of-31 passes for 212 yards and four TDs, the latter tying a school record for touchdown passes in a debut. Starter Sean Renfree has been battling an elbow injury and is considered questionable for Saturday's contest. Considering Boone's performance, there is certainly no urgency to rush Renfree back.
Blue Devils senior safety Walty Canty is the reigning ACC Defensive Back of the Week after notching a season-high 14 tackles against Virginia, including a career-high three tackles for loss. Each of those tackles behind the line of scrimmage came during a crucial down and distance. With Canty leading the charge, the Duke defense dominated in the second half. Virginia was shut out over the final two quarters and managed just two yards rushing after halftime. After allowing 321 yards of total offense in the first half, Duke's defense yielded just 140 yards in the second half.
Virginia Tech has lost a couple of shootout-type games over the past two weeks. Two weeks ago, the Hokies put up 402 yards of total offense but lost to Cincinnati on a touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining. Last week, Logan Thomas set career-highs in completions (26), attempts (49) and yards (354) but the defense had another rough day, as UNC claimed a 48-34 victory. Thomas threw for two TDs and ran for another, but he didn't get much help from the running game, as his 20 rushing yards represented a team-high. VT enters the weekend ranked 91st nationally in rushing offense (131.3 ypg) as freshman Michael Holmes leads the team in that department with only 230 yards. Holmes has yet to rush for more than 60 yards in a game.
While the Hokies have had their fair share of struggles running the ball, they have had an even rougher time stopping opponents' ground games. Last week, Duke's Giovani Bernard ran wild for a career-high 262 yards. The Hokies' offense put up plenty of points, but the defense simply could not get stops. They enter this tilt ranked 98th in the nation in rushing defense (196.7 ypg), which has been a major Achilles' heel this season. All told, UNC racked up 339 yards and four TDs on the ground, averaging a collective 7.5 yards per carry. Duke's offense may very well skew toward the passing game, but should the inexperienced Boone get the start at quarterback again, the Blue Devils may look to the running game to try and keep the chains moving.
Virginia Tech has won 11 in a row in the head-to-head series with Duke, but these teams are headed in very opposite directions entering this latest matchup. If the Hokies cannot stop the bleeding at home, it will mark the program's steepest drop-off in recent memory after being ranked No. 13 only a few weeks ago.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 31, Virginia Tech 27
10/10 10:35:10 ET