2008 Keys to the Game, Matchups to Watch and Game Prediction: Duke

Thank you Georgia Tech!! After the Yellow Jackets knocked off the Miami
Hurricanes, the door reopens for the Hokies, and Virginia Tech once again has
control of its own destiny in the wild and wacky ACC. If VT takes care of
business in the next two weeks at home, then the Hokies will earn a trip to
Tampa for the ACC championship. However, the vastly improved Duke Blue Devils
will have a great incentive in this week’s game as well. Duke needs to win their
next two games to become bowl eligible. So, what are the keys to this now
critical contest?

The overall key to this game is simple: ball control. While a cursory glance
at Duke’s offensive statistics might leave one with the impression that the Blue
Devils now have a wide-open passing attack (averaging 207 yards per game), the
offensive system that David Cutcliffe has installed is actually designed to
control the ball via a west coast-based passing system and varied running
attack. In eight of Duke’s first nine games, the Blue Devils won the time of
possession battle. Last week against Clemson, the Tigers dominated time of
possession and made Duke look like the winless Blue Devils of previous years,
winning 31-7. The other game that Duke did not win the time of possession battle
was Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets destroyed the Blue Devils 27-0.

On the other side of the ball, Duke’s defense is led by an experienced front
seven backed by a two-deep (Cover-2) zone. The Blue Devils have a “bend but
not break” philosophy of limiting big plays and forcing teams to march down
the field. The defensive front has generally prevented teams from controlling
the ball and giving the ball back to the offense. However, the secondary has
struggled at times and allowed big plays.

So, what does Virginia Tech need to do to control the ball against Duke?