In Saturday’s matchup a lot is on the line. Many still hold the thought that Duke is the cellar dweller of the ACC, the laughing stock of football. They couldn’t be more incorrect. In the past 3 seasons, David Cutcliffe has taken the Blue Devils to places they havent really been before. In recent memory, Duke has only made one bowl game. Last season. A 14 point loss to Cincinnati, not a dismal showing. Also, last season Duke led Virginia Tech 20-0 before the Hokies scored 41 straight to win 41-20. Sound familiar? On Saturday, Duke was down to UVA 22-0 before surging for 35 straight points to win 35-22. They have momentum going into their biggest contest of the season thus far. With two solid quarterbacks it will be interesting to see how the Devils handle Virginia Tech’s incredible D.
Virginia Tech comes into the game standing at 6-1 with their only loss coming to #1 Alabama on the opening day of College ball. The Hokie’s offense struggled mightily for the following three games (Western Carolina, East Carolina, Marshall) but really picked up against Georgia Tech. Why? Logan Thomas. In the past three seasons Thomas has had a very up and down career. In his first season at the helm he guided the Hokies to the Orange Bowl and threw for 3000 yards, 19 TDs and only 10 picks. Not a bad stat line for a quarterbacks first year as a starter. His junior year (second season starting) he threw for a shade under 3000 yards, 18 TDs but had 16 interceptions. Overall not a terrible stat line except for the interceptions. It was miraculous how the Hokies managed to win despite Thomas having four games with two interceptions and three against a Pitt squad not known for their secondary. Many said he was done, he wouldnt make it to the pros, he wasnt great anymore. Logan started the 2013 campaign by proving those comments right. He threw two picks against Western Carolina and Marshall and only threw for 59 yards against Alabama. Hokie Nation was worried going into the Georgia Tech game. Logan Thomas played an outstanding game and has for the past three games. No interceptions, five touchdowns, over 220 yards in each game, and three total QBRs that are his highest since November 26, 2011 against UVA. He is back on track, at least the Hokies hope so.
Here is what to watch for from a Hokies point of view;
1. Logan Thomas. He has the tendency to make poor defenses look excellent but in recent weeks has stepped up substantially. How will he handle a Duke D that gave up 58 points to Pitt and 38 to Troy?
2. The Hokie Defense. The “best D in the country” could be without Kyle Fuller and Brandon Facyson while getting back Antone Exum. This would be interesting as Facyson and Fuller are both big time playmakers and would dearly be missed. Exum hasn’t played yet this season so there is no telling how shaky he could be.
3. Lane Stadium. Duke hasnt beat Virginia Tech since 1981, but here are scores for the past four years. 2012 @ VT 41-20, 2011 @ Duke 14-10, 2010 @ VT 44-7, 2010 @ Duke, 34-26. The games are closer in Durham. Lane stadium is intimidating and it will be interesting to see how the Hokies play on Saturday.
4. Beamerball; Virginia Tech’s philosophy of making big plays happen in all three areas of the game but focused primarily on Defense and Special Teams. It wasn’t very prevalent last season but this season it seems to be back in full forced. Blocked punts, interceptions, fumbles, blocked FGs, its all there.
5. Bye Week. This was Virginia Techs lone bye week of the season. There is no telling how the Hokies will come out. Do they come out how they left off? On absolute fire and ready to roll? Do they come out like they did to begin the season and fall flat? This is by no means a cake game and VT needs to come in with some life. Beamer knows how to coach a team and will see which team comes out. Pre-GT or post-GT.
3:30 on ESPNU. Duke 5-2 (1-2 ACC) @ #14 Virginia Tech 6-1 (3-0 ACC)