Duke has had a nice run, but upon closer look, the Blue Devils haven’t really played anyone outside of Miami and Georgia Tech so the Hokies getting 5½ here is the pick in this ACC Coastal Division game.
ACC Coastal Division Showdown in Durham
Virginia Tech vs. Duke (Duke -5½, Pinnacle)
Duke (8-1 SU, 6-2-1 ATS) has had one of its best seasons in a long time and head coach David Cutcliffe (43-28-6 ATS) and his staff are to be commended for the strides they have made with the Blue Devils football program in Durham. Even the idea of (AP) #19 Duke being made 5½-point Favorites (Pinnacle) by odds makers —it opened -7 some places—for this game on Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium against Virginia Tech (4-5 SU, 3-6 ATS) shows just how far the Blue Devils have come on the gridiron. Not so long ago, the Hokies were laying really large numbers against Duke and were pounding them on the regular (2005: 45-0, 2006: 36-0, 2010: 44-7). But now, the Blue Devils (4-1 conference) are fighting to stay atop the ACC Coastal Conference and like its’ renowned men’s basketball team, Duke is playing some really great defense (18.2 ppg, #11 in nation). But when you look at some of the schools the Blue Devils have played—Elon, Troy State, Kansas, Tulane, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse—it’s no big surprise the opponents haven’t scored that much because the opponents programs all seem to be a bit on the downswing while Duke has been on the upswing, thanks in great part to Cutcliffe.
Heading the Blue Devils offense has been senior QB Anthony Boone (1,789 yards, 14 TDs) with freshman RB Shaun Wilson (535 yards, 4 TDs, 9.2 ypc) leading the team in rushing and WRs Isaac Blakely (5 TDs) and Jamison Crowder (4 TDs) providing to be nice threats downfield.
Virginia Tech and head coach Frank Beamer (167-142-9 ATS) have always been known for their dynamic Special Teams play and the Hokies Defense is 22nd in the country in Points Allowed Per Game (22.6 ppg) so this will likely be a low-scoring game where turnovers and field position end up determining the winner. So, those 5½ points may be thicker than they look on our College Football Odds if it does indeed end up being a game with both team scoring in the 20s.
Hokies QB Michael Brewer (2,099 yards, 13 TDs, 11 INTs) will need to avoid the interceptions here at Duke, while Virginia Tech freshmen Isaiah Ford (41 receptions, 522 yards, 5 TDs) and Cam Phillips (2 TDs); Marshawn Williams (4 TDs) and Shai McKenzie (3 TDs) will all have to produce here. Virginia Tech (+175 Moneyline, Paddy Power) will definitely have the speed edge over Duke (-210).
Last year, Duke upset Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, 13-10 as 12-point Underdogs so the Hokies will have revenge in mind; but whether or not this team is experienced and enough to even pull off the upset win here against the Blue Devils is a legitimate question. But if this same team could travel to Columbus, Ohio in Week 2 and knock off #11 Ohio State (35-21), then they certainly can go down to Durham and derail Duke and tighten up the division this weekend.
NCAA Football Pick: Virginia Tech +5½
Wildcats and the Points: The Call Over Fighting Irish in South Bend
Northwestern vs. #15 Notre Dame (Notre Dame -17, Pinnacle)
Instead of recommending taking #10 Auburn and the 2½ points (Pinnacle) at #16 Georgia as your College Football Pick, it seems safer to shy away from that electric SEC showdown as Bulldogs star RB Todd Gurley is returning to the fold after a 4-game suspension and the Dawgs looked pretty darn good in a 63-31 disemboweling of Kentucky. So, on to Touchdown Jesus and the Smart Kids in Purple we go. #15 Notre Dame (7-2 SU, 5-4 ATS) was rolling right along and was actually part of the national championship conversation until last weekend when #7 Arizona State grated the Fighting Irish, 55-31 in Tempe, ending any hopes of Notre Dame being in that first-ever NCAAF Final Four.
Northwestern (3-6 SU, 3-6 ATS) has had a miserable season no matter how tough the Wildcats schedule may be, but this is a team that plays with a lot of pride and could even find a way to win this one on the Moneyline (Winner) at +580 (Paddy Power, Notre Dame -900) believe it or not. Really. Notre Dame has improved a lot through the years and deserves the attention it’s been getting lately but 17 points seems awfully high and after beating Rice and Michigan both by 31 points in Weeks 1 and 2, the Fighting Irish’s highest margin of victory has only been 16 (vs. Purdue, 30-14). And Northwestern (L4 straight) played Michigan very tough last weekend, losing 10-9 in a slugfest in Ann Arbor so another low-scoring Big Ten affair could transpire in South Bend on Saturday afternoon where winter may be making an early appearance (Partly cloudy, High 37°).
Wildcats QB Trevor Siemian (1,837 yards, 5 TDs) doesn’t have the kind of prolific stats as many other college QBs, but he does a good job working with the tools he has and managing the game. Freshman RB Justin Jackson (761 yards, 5 TDs) will hope to bust loose and have a 100-yard game against Notre Dame in the national spotlight, and the Fighting Irish do give up the points (25.3, #57 in nation), so this could be 50-49 just as well as it could be 10-9 like it was last Saturday in The Big House.
Although these two colleges are relatively close to each other (108.4 miles), the last time they played was way back in 1993 when Northwestern won 17-15 and when gas was 99¢ a gallon and Coke was considered an energy drink. Like some other teams in sports, Northwestern games always seem to be very close and dramatic and although the oddsmakers have hung a 17 and it’s solid everywhere, the Wildcats would love nothing better than to knock off big-bad Notre Dame at Home. Northwestern should be in this game throughout, and may even win it if everything comes up purple and it can win the Luck and TO battles. The two toughest teams the Fighting Irish have played—#2 Florida State and #7 Arizona State—both beat them and there should be a decent number of Wildcats fans and alumni at Notre Dame Stadium in Northwestern Indiana for this one. And, 17 is 17.
NCAA Football Pick: Northwestern +17 at Pinnacle