Virginia Tech’s Top 5 Toughest 2014 Opponents: #3 Duke


Oct 26, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Kendall Fuller (11) intercepts a pass intended for Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Jamison Crowder (3) during the first quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our countdown of the Virginia Tech Hokies’ toughest opponents with the number 3 team on our list, the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke shocked a lot of people last season when they won the ACC Coastal and finished with a 10-4 record which included a win in Blacksburg. The Hokies will definitely be looking for some revenge in Durham this season while the Blue Devils will be looking to prove that they weren’t a fluke.

Duke was not actually highly rated offensively or defensively last season as their 32.8 points per game ranked 42nd in FBS while their 26.6 points per game allowed ranked 64nd in FBS. Those numbers aren’t great and are part of the reason why some people wonder if Duke was somewhat of a fluke but the Blue Devils are definitely one of the top contenders in the ACC Coastal.

Nov 23, 2013; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Jamison Crowder (3) pulls down a pass for a touchdown in the second half against Wake Forest Demon Deacons Allen Ramsey II (15) at BB&T Field. Duke won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Ellen Ozier-USA TODAY Sports

Jamison Crowder is one of the most explosive wide receivers in college football and is a player that can be hard to contain as he is one of college football’s fastest players. Crowder was a pass catching machine with 108 receptions and 1360 receiving yards while also averaging 12.6 yards per catch. Crowder is a speedy playmaker that Kendall Fuller will likely be assigned to for a lot of the game.

This matchup between the two Preseason All-ACC players should be captivating as Fuller and Crowder both have NFL futures. Crowder is not the biggest wide receiver and Fuller isn’t the tallest player but these are two very refined football players who are great athletes and really tough players. I would expect Fuller to slow Crowder down somewhat in this game but not completely.

Anthony Boone struggled last year against the Hokies and was far from the reason why Duke pulled off the upset. However, Boone made some improvement over the final five games as he had a completion percentage over 60% and a passer rating over 130 in four of his final five games. Boone also has some mobility and that could be taken advantage of more by Duke this season. Boone will look for redemption and while he won’t do as bad as last year, he won’t have a good game.

One of the best matchups in this game will be between Duke guard Laken Tomlinson and Luther Maddy as Maddy will likely be lined up across from Tomlinson on some plays. Both these players made the Preseason All-ACC team and this is the type of matchup that hardcore college football fans love seeing.

Defensively, Duke has a lot of talent once again and were expecting to be led by redshirt senior linebacker Kelby Brown. Brown, like multiple other Duke players, had his breakthrough season last year and proved to be a standout run defender with 120 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions. However, Brown will miss the season due to an ACL injury.

Nov 16, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils safety Jeremy Cash (16) tackles Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Herb Waters (6) at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Cash is the fourth player for the Blue Devils that made the Preseason All-ACC team and is the best safety in the conference that is not a senior. After sitting out 2012 due to transferring from Ohio State, Cash proved that he was a very dynamic safety as he had 121 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles on his way to earning a spot on USA Today’s All-American Second Team.

Cash is a dynamic player that can do damage in the backfield and get the job done on pass coverage which will make him a challenge to handle for the Hokies. The Hokies will have to try to use some spread looks in this game and focus on attacking Duke’s cornerbacks and avoiding Cash. Virginia Tech will definitely be in for a challenge on the offensive side of the ball.

Nov 30, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers quarterback David Watford (5) runs with the ball as Virginia Tech Hokies safety Kyshoen Jarrett (34) tackles in the second quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This game has the makings of a low-scoring matchup and I expect both teams to be held under 20 points. However, the Hokies are a lot stronger in the secondary overall than Duke is individually and Boone will once again struggle. Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner will be able to help make sure Crowder is double covered a lot while Dadi Nicolas, Corey Marshall, and Luther Maddy will put tons of pressure on Boone.

Meanwhile, the Hokies will get enough offense though it won’t be easy with Cash leading the charge for Duke. However, the Hokies will have a little more offensive success than Duke with Joshua Stanford and Willie Byrn getting the job done against first-year starting cornerbacks.

This will be a tough game for the Hokies but Virginia Tech will get some revenge from last year’s game.