#21 Khalil Herbert, #0 Jalen Holston, #6 Raheem Blackshear
On paper, there is a lot of factors of a trap game scenario present for the Duke matchup. Virginia Tech was forced to wait until week 4 of college football to play their first game. They built this game up so much after practicing week in and week out just waiting to finally play. VT came out swinging after all the hype surrounding the season opener. Generally, teams slow down after the season opener, they slow down after a big win, and they slow down after teams gain film on their new players. This all happened in 1 game.
Duke is 0-3 but has a strong defense. The problem is they cannot stay off the field. Duke has 12 turnovers in the last two games with 5 against Boston College and 7 last week against UVA. No defense can keep up when they are forced to play 7 more drives because of turnovers. Even with those extra drives, Duke has held opponents to 30 points per game. Offensively, the Blue Devils are still working out the kinks with Clemson transfer Chase Brice. if the offense can limit their turnovers, they have some potential to possibly upset a few teams.
A TON of matchups similar to this come across as trap games. You have a strong VT team that dominated NC State. They play a winless, but underrated, Duke and could very easily look right past them and focus on #12 UNC on 10/10. But will they? Vegas obviously favors VT, but surprisingly only by 10 points. VT won by 21 and Duke loses by an average of 17.3, so why only 10 points? I think Vegas is considering a trap game scenario. But, here is why I think VT won't have a problem handling business:
Last year, VT struggled early season with an injured Ryan Willis at the helm. Duke came in ready to play, more prepared, and kicked ass 45-10. Duke ran up the score including a fake punt up 28 with 9 minutes left. Duke rubbed it in, and VT did not forget. VT returns most players from that game. I’m not saying VT will try and drop 100 points against Duke, but they will be focused on Duke, not UNC. Justin Fuente has told the team that let's go 1-0 each week, but after 2019 Duke, they really lived 1-0. Every week the players' only goal is to go 1-0 on Saturday no matter who it is.
Everyone knows about Virginia Tech’s main rival, UVA. But recently they seem to have developed another side rivalry, North Carolina. Not UNC, the whole state. VT and NC have had their issues from UNC trying to poach coach Beamer, to NC’s basketball success, to VT trying to snatch NC football recruits, Like Dax Holifield. VT staff has made a point to “Dominate their State” from out recruiting to outscoring them. Since joining the ACC, VT has absolutely dominated teams from North Carolina 36-8. Under Fuente, that record improves to an impressive 9-1. That “1” is Duke, and Fuente has no intention of making it 2 in a row.
Virginia Tech still has much to prove this week aside from just beating Duke. The ACC is on the rise, especially the coastal. Miami, UNC, Pitt, and VT seem to be pulling from the pack while UVA and GT have shown they can compete with the top teams after their rebuilds. Virginia Tech does not have Miami Beach and loads of money, Pittsburgh Steelers and Heinz field, or UNC basketball and lower academic requirements. VT is fighting an uphill battle in the coastal and with no divisions this year, every game matters twice as much. The rankings are clearly not on VT’s side either as 5 ACC teams are ranked above them, even after beating 3 of them last year and returning many starters.
VT will likely return Hendon Hooker to starting quarterback alongside the three-headed dragon of Herbert, Blackshear, and Holston at RB. Several players will likely remain inactive including possibly DC Justin Hamilton if he needs a 14-day quarantine. That clearly did not bother them last week though, and VT should be able to dominate Duke much like it has been all year.
Prediction VT 42-10