September 15, 2006

Devils vs. Hokies: Matchups to Watch

Will the real Duke please stand up? Blue Devil fans certainly hope the real Duke is the team that would have beaten Wake Forest last week were it not for some ill timed miscues.

If that is in fact the real Blue Devil team, Duke stands a great chance to at least play competitively against Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.

To do that, Duke will have to hold its own in some key matchups against the powerful Hokies.

Duke's run defense vs. Virginia Tech running back Branden Ore

This is arguably the biggest matchup of the day. The only way Duke can compete in this game is to stifle Tech's running game and force Sean Glennon to throw the football to win. Ore has 165 rushing yards through two games, but he hasn't been fully unleashed yet either with just 33 carries. The challenge is on in the trenches where Duke's front four must play well for four quarters. Results against the run have been very encouraging through two games, but this game will be the true measuring stick game on the road in front an always rabid sellout crowd. If Duke puts up a third straight strong effort against the run, especially against a player like Ore, then we'll know without a doubt the Blue Devils will at least have a chance to compete each week.

Thaddeus Lewis vs. Virginia Tech's secondary (and the crowd)

Thad Lewis-welcome to big time college football. Last week's sterling starting debut at Wake Forest was very impressive, but going up against the speed and schemes of Bud Foster's defense is a new league. Last week's effort came in front of a lot of fans disguised as empty seats as well. This week Lewis will have deafening noise to deal with at the line of scrimmage. The Hokies ate North Carolina's quarterbacks alive last week in Chapel Hill. To avoid the same fate, Lewis has to know when to reign in his aggressiveness without losing his playmaking edge. It's a very tough balance to find even for a seasoned quarterback. It's not just the secondary that Lewis has to worry about. Virginia Tech's linebackers are also terrific athletes. Xavier Adibi and Brenden Hill both intercepted a pass last week against North Carolina, and Vince Hall has made a habit of pressuring quarterbacks into mistakes. Rover Aaron Rouse is a combination of a safety and a linebacker. He also had a pick against the Tar Heels. Tech's pass defense is daunting and sometimes downright scary. Knowing Lewis, he will treat the challenge as an opportunity to prove beyond a doubt that he is the long term answer for Duke at quarterback. The only question now is, can he seize that opportunity?

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