NCAAF Picks Duke to Cover & the 'Under' Against Virginia

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 7:53 PM UTC

Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 7:53 PM UTC

When you think of Virginia facing Duke in an important ACC game, you expect it to be in basketball. However, Saturday's football matchup in Durham has potentially big ACC Coastal implications. Duke is a 3-point favorite on 5Dimes NCAA football odds.

Cavaliers Saving London's Job
In a poll of media members at the ACC Kickoff this summer, Virginia was picked dead last in the Coastal Division and was the only one of the seven schools not to get at least one first-place vote. Not a huge surprise considering the Cavaliers were 2-10 last season and winless in the conference, dropping every game but one by double digits. Coach Mike London entered this season on one of the hottest seats in the nation despite some pretty good recruiting classes.

Yet there the Cavaliers (4-2, 2-0) are atop the Coastal, the only team in that division without an ACC loss. You got the feeling Virginia was better this season when it lost just 28-20 to then-No. 7 UCLA in the season opener as a 21-point home underdog on college football odds. The only other loss was 41-33 at a very good BYU team on Sept. 20. The two Atlantic Coast Conference wins have come at home, beating then-No. 21 Louisville 23-21 and two weeks ago edging Pittsburgh 24-19.

The Cavaliers aren't a great offensive team. They were using two quarterbacks in Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert. Johns has taken every snap  but a few in mop-up duty since Lambert suffered a sprained right ankle against BYU. Lambert was relieved by Johns in each of the first three games. With the week off Lambert should be healthy now so maybe they both play. Johns has completed 58.8 percent of his passes with seven TDs and five interceptions. Lambert has completed 64.9 percent with two TDs and four picks. The focal point of the offense is usually running back Kevin Parks, who has gained 427 yards on 104 carries. The Wahoos have rushed for at least 225 yards in its past two games. They haven't had three straight with at least 200 in a decade.

The defense is very good. It ranks 27th nationally in total defense, allowing 330.8 yards per game. Henry Coley (6 sacks) and Eli Harold (5.5 sacks) have been terrorizing quarterbacks and freshman safety Quin Blanding leads the ACC with 61 tackles (most of any freshman in the nation). Virginia has forced 19 turnovers, which is No. 2 in the nation. It has 10 fumble recoveries (seven coming on sacks) and eight players have at least one interception.


Blue Devils Can Still Repeat
Duke (5-1, 1-1 ACC) was the surprise winner of the Coastal Division a year ago and was picked second this summer behind Miami by the media. The Blue Devils' lone loss was 22-10 in Miami on Sept. 27; the Devils' non-conference schedule of Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane was a joke. However, they bounced back last weekend with an impressive 31-25 win at No. 22 Georgia Tech as a 3.5-point underdog on NCAA football odds at sportsbooks. It snapped Duke's 10-game losing streak to the Jackets and was its first win in Atlanta since 1994. Georgia Tech outgained Duke by more than 100 yards but Tech had three turnovers to Duke's zero.

The Blue Devils are a better running team than passing. They rank 24th nationally in rushing and have three guys with at least 40 carries and 200 yards: Shaun Wilson (43 for 466, a national-best 10.8 yards per carry), Josh Snead (49 for 256) and Shaquille Powell (41 for 200). QB Anthony Boone is completing 57.6 percent of his passes for 1,186  yards, eight TDs and three interceptions. The Blue Devils have an ACC-low five giveaways. Duke is 15-1 under Boone career when he starts a regular-season game.

You don't really think of Duke as a great defensive club but it does rank seventh in points allowed at 15.5 ppg. Again, though, consider that non-conference schedule. Duke didn't give up more than 17 points in those four games. The Blue Devils have held 13 straight regular-season opponents under 30 points. Only Miami last year scored more than 25 in that span.


Last Meeting
In 2013 at Virginia, the Blue Devils won 35-22 as 2.5-point underdogs on NCAA football odds. UVA led that game 22-0 late in the second quarter. Boone completed 21 of 39 for two touchdowns and an interception. Parks rushed 15 times for 50 yards and two scores for the Cavs. The Blue Devils have won two straight and five out of the last six meetings.

NCAAF free picks: Duke -3 and 'under' 52 points at sportsbooks for your college football picks. The Blue Devils have won seven straight at home and that will continue. Virginia has covered just one of the past seven meetings at sportsbooks. It also has covered only two of its past 10 overall following a win. The 'under' is 5-0 in Duke's past five ACC games. 

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