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Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Pick

Virginia Tech Hokies (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS) vs. Duke Blue Devis (2-2 SU, 1-2 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 3, 2009, Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, N.C. TV: ESPN360.com
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Virginia Tech -16/Duke +16
Over/Under: 47

Two of the most athletic dual-threat quarterbacks in college football will meet as the Virginia Tech Hokies travel to play the Duke Blue Devils. Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech and Thad Lewis of Duke both can impact a game with their feet. Taylor may be the better player of the two, but Lewis will be the more important player when these two teams meet early Saturday afternoon.

The Hokies are coming off an impressive 31-7 victory over a red-hot Miami team that many expected to come into Blacksburg and roll over Va Tech, but instead it was the Hokies that came away with an easy victory.

It's a known fact that Virginia Tech always has an elite defense and special teams unit, but Miami quarterback Jacory Harris came into the game red hot. The Hokies bothered Harris, who is quite the athlete himself, all game long and held him to just 150 yards on 9-for-25 passing, including an interception and three sacks. The rushing game didn't work either for the Hurricanes, as they ran the ball 34 times for 93 yards. Taylor didn't have to do much to win the game (4-9, 98 yards). It was the Hokies' rushing attack that wore down the Miami defense. They ran the ball 54 times for 294 yards, led by a 150-yard effort by Ryan Williams.

Virginia Tech has had the quite the season so far, while playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Hokies opened the season with a 34-24 loss to Alabama. They bounced back with a 52-10 win over Marshall and a 16-15 last-minute win over Nebraska, before the thrashing of Miami.

When the Hokies struggled to score points against Nebraska, it was because Taylor threw the ball 27 times. They ran it 37 times, but gained just 92 yards. The lack of success on the ground forced Taylor to throw it more than they had planned.

While Nebraska was able to control the clock with over 200 rushing yards, Huskers quarterback Zac Lee was just 11-for-30. Lee is 57-for-75 in Nebraska's other three games. Miami's Harris, who was 9-for-25 against Va Tech, is 41-for-59 in his other two games. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, who was 15-for-30 in his team's win over the Hokies, is 48-for-63 against non-Va Tech opponents. What does all this mean? Virginia Tech has one heck of a pass defense.

While Lewis is a very good player, he does not have the arm and ability of the Miami, Nebraska and Alabama quarterbacks, so expect Lewis to have worlds of trouble completing passes, much like the other three quarterbacks struggled.

Duke will have to rely on its defense keeping the Blue Devils in thegame and on the offense making the little plays to slowly move the ball down the field. And if the Blue Devils make mistakes and commit turnovers, they won't have much of a chance at all.

The Blue Devils will also mix in quarterback Sean Renfree, who has a better arm than Lewis. When Lewis struggled and completed just 5-of-16 passes in the win over Army, Renfree came in and went 7-for-8 for 106 yards and two touchdowns. If Lewis struggles against Va Tech, which is a safe assumption, there's a good chance Renfree will get an opportunity under center.

If the Hokies keep up their stellar pass defense when they face Duke, the Blue Devils will have to excel in their run game if they want to win. However, Duke is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry this season, and that's against four teams not nearly at the same level as Virginia Tech. By comparison, the Hokies are averaging 5.3 yards per carry and that's against one of the toughest schedules in college football.

The Va Tech defense allowed 280 rushing yards to Alabama and 207 to Nebraska, so it is possible to run on the Hokies. But with all due respect to the Blue Devils, they don't have the same rushing attack as those two teams. Marshall, the team most comparable to Duke of the four teams the Hokies have faced, ran for 133 yards, and Miami totaled just 93 rushing yards.

In all likelihood, Duke will struggle to score. But if the Blue Devils can shut down the Hokies' rushing attack, they can keep the game within reach. The problem is that Duke hasn't yet faced a team with as strong of a running game as Virginia Tech. Duke did face Army, a team that relies heavily on the run. Duke won that game, 35-19, but struggled to stop the run, allowing 272 rushing yards on 57 carries.

Williams, Virginia Tech's starting running back, is questionable for the Duke game with an ankle injury. If Williams is unable to play, fellow freshman David Wilson and sophomore Josh Oglesby will be more than capable of picking up the slack.

Virginia Tech has won the last five meetings with Duke, while the Blue Devils are 4-21 in their last 25 home games. The total has gone under in seven of Virginia Tech's last 10 games.

Ryno's Prediction: Duke will have a difficult time scoring points against the Hokies. When these two teams hooked up last season, Virginia Tech won the game 14-3. Expect a similar outcome this year. The Hokies will hover around the 16-point spread, but regardless this will be a low-scoring affair. Take the under when it comes out.

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