The Duke Blue Devils have lost only once to Northwestern out of conference this year and they now look to get to 3-0 in ACC play when visiting disappointing Virginia Tech Saturday.
The ranked road team seems primed to pull the mild upset Saturday afternoon in ACC action when those 23rd ranked Duke Blue Devils (5-1, 4-2 ATS) pay a visit to the disappointing Virginia Tech Hokies (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA at 3:30 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Duke as a tiny road underdog for this contest with the current line at +2½ with odds of -104.
Only Loss was to Big Ten Team
The Blue Devils have only tasted defeat once this season and that was to Northwestern of the Big Ten 19-10 when the Wildcats were playing the best defense in the country. Meanwhile the five Duke wins have been by an average of +28.4 points, and at 2-0 inside the ACC the Blue Devils have to continue winning to keep pace with 3-0 Pittsburgh and 2-0 North Carolina in the Coastal Division.
The Hokies meanwhile has been very erratic while posting a losing 3-4 record as college football picks, as not even the return of starting quarterback Michael Brewer for the first time since opening week, albeit in a timeshare with interim starter Brenden Motley, could prevent Virginia Tech from losing 30-20 in Miami to the Hurricanes last week to once again dip below .500.
Sense of Déjà vu for Duke?
Duke has had two weeks to prepare for this contest thanks to a bye following a 44-3 non-conference annihilation of Army at West Point two weeks ago, and the Blue Devils may have a sense of déjà vu from 2013 with this game at Blacksburg. You see, that 2103 Duke team had many doubters following two early losses, but some may say a win here at Lane Stadium that year put the Blue Devils on the national map as they went on to win their last eight games.
Obviously the Duke football program is no longer a big secret thanks to a masterful job by Coach David Cutcliffe, but the despite the 5-1 record, this 2015 team still has doubters with the best win so far probably being over a Georgia Tech team that has since gone in the tank, and that bit of disrespect is evident by Duke being small underdogs here to a 3-4 team.
However, keep in mind that the Blue Devils beat a good Virginia Tech team in this stadium two years ago, and this matchup seems much easier. As great a defensive coordinator as the Hokies’ Bud Foster is, his defense has been lit up in three of the four Tech losses. Yes, the first loss to Ohio State is understandable, but the Hokies allowed 35 points and 410 total yards to East Carolina and 30 points on 395 total yards to Miami.
So despite the Hokies’ defensive reputation, we do not see a Duke offense averaging 31.5 points and 412.8 total yards per game with nice balance being slowed much here. Duke is averaging 232.2 passing yards and 180.7 rushing yards, and that rushing attack could become dominant if quarterback Thomas Sirk, who has been efficient completing 62.4 percent of his passes, can hit a couple of big plays early vs. the Hokies’ inexperienced secondary.
Who Has Virginia Tech Beaten?
Meanwhile, the three wins by Virginia Tech have not exactly come vs. a Who’s Who of the nation’s elite, with the wins coming vs. Furman of the FCS, a lower rung Big Ten team in Purdue and an overrated NC State team whose record was padded by facing one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the country. In others words, the Hokies have lost every game they have played vs. better competition, and calling East Carolina “better” is debatable.
So the question becomes, is Duke considered one of those better opponents? Well, the Blue Devils’ 23rd ranking seems to suggest so and one thing we have not touched on yet has been the surprising performance of the Duke defense so far, as it is ranked fourth in the country in total defense at only 252.8 yards per game and second in scoring defense at a mere 9.3 points per contest!
No, we are not suggesting that the Blue Devils’ defense is really as good as those numbers, but the unit is certainly much improved over past seasons which could make this a tough spot for Brewer to make his return as the starting Virginia Tech quarterback after he completed 3-of-4 passes for 65 yards with a touchdown pass but also an interception in relief of Motley in the loss to the Hurricanes.
Hokies Struggling Inside Conference
Finally, Virginia Tech has now fallen to 4-9 ATS in its last 13 conference games, and the Hokies are also 0-6 ATS in their last six games after allowing more than 280 passing yards in their previous game. Conversely, Duke is 20-7-1 ATS in its last 28 games overall and 5-0 ATS in its last five road games.
This line may be set more on reputation than performance, as Virginia Tech looks like a mere shell of the dominant ACC team it was just a few years ago, and we do not think that being home in Blacksburg will prevent the mild upset by what we think is simply a much better Duke team here on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Duke +2½ (-104)