NCAA Football Expert Picks: Virginia Tech at Duke Odds and Predictions
Virginia Tech Hokies at Duke Blue Devils, Saturday Sept. 29, 7 p.m. ET
If you had sat down at the beginning of the season, or even just a week ago, the storylines you would have anticipated heading into this game are very different than they have turned out to be. First, this is a showdown between ranked teams, which is at least a mild surprise. And Duke is the higher-ranked team, which would have long seemed unlikely given where Duke has long been as a football program. Most significantly, though, Virginia Tech suddenly seems like a football team in crisis. Justin Fuente seemed to be building a stellar program in Blacksburg, but two happenings over the last week have questioned how much control he has and whether he can keep it. Add it all up and this is unquestionably the most interesting meeting between these two conference mates on the gridiron perhaps ever.
Virginia Tech at Duke Betting Storylines
The challenge with writing about Virginia Tech right now is knowing where to start. First, the ugly loss. Losing by two touchdowns is never good, and it's infinitely worse when you are favored by 27.5 points. Losing to an FCS team is bad. Losing to an FCS team that was previously winless is worse. Never mind that Old Dominion lost their opener, to a Liberty team that is currently 1-2, by 42 points. There is no excuse for the outcome, and that it happened is a glaring sign that this is a troubled team.
And then there is the Trevon Hill situation. Hill is both one of the best defenders on this team and one of the best defensive linemen in the league - or at least he was. On Sunday he was dismissed from the team by Fuente. And although there are rumors of a locker room fight and other things out there, no one really knows why. For it to have been bad enough to result in a dismissal means that it is significant, and there is absolutely no way that it isn't a distraction for the team.
And on top of it all, the team has to deal with a forced QB change. Josh Jackson broke his leg against Old Dominion, so Ryan Willis will be in charge now. Willis started for parts of two years at Kansas before walking on a Virginia Tech - yes, Kansas is such a joke of a program that their starters can only walk on elsewhere. He is on scholarship now but has seen limited action. He is helped by having a strong receiving corps around him, but it is far from ideal. Like everything else surrounding this team.
Duke has started out 4-0 with three wins against Power 5 opponents, but it is tough to get too excited. First, those Power 5 foes are Army, Baylor and Northwestern, so they lack a signature win. And they also went 4-0 to start things off last year, including wins over Baylor and Northwestern, and then proceeded to lose their next six games. They are at home against a very vulnerable team, and they are favored, but they are far from easy to love here.
Virginia Tech at Duke Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Duke favored by six points in most spots, but that has since fallen to five in early action. Action is evenly split, with only a very slight edge to Virginia Tech, so we are unlikely to see significant movement barring more major developments. The total opened at 51 and has fallen slightly to 49.5.
The Hokies are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games in September, and 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games played on grass, but just 2-5 ATS in their last seven road games. Duke is 6-1 ATS in their last seven, and they have covered five in a row against teams with winning records. They are 8-3-1 ATS in their last 12 home games.
Virginia Tech at Duke Predictions and Picks
Mostly this is like a car wreck of a game - you know you should look away, but you can't. Virginia Tech should be the more talented team, but between injuries, departures, and drama, they likely aren't right now. And while Duke has looked solid, they are far from easy to trust. Bud Foster's defense was atrocious last week for Virginia Tech, but he is one of the best coordinators in the country, and they have a rallying point in this one. To bet on Virginia Tech is to bet on their pride - and that could be tough to do. But I don't really trust Duke with this many points. I lean towards Virginia Tech, but not with any real conviction.
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