Duke (3-6) at Virginia (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 12th, 3:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia . Television: Raycom Sports. Home Record: Duke 1-5, Virginia 3-2. Away Record: Duke 2-1, Virginia 3-1. Neutral Record: Duke 0-0, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: Duke 1-4, Virginia 3-2. Series Record: Virginia leads 32-30.
GAME NOTES: The Duke Blue Devils will storm into Charlottesville for an ACC clash with the Virginia Cavaliers, who are on a two-game winning streak.
Duke has lost the last four games, and after losing to Wake Forest by one and Virginia Tech by four in back-to-back weeks, the Blue Devils were beaten by five touchdowns by Miami last week, 49-14. Now the Blue Devils must find a way to win their final three games, starting this weekend against a Virginia team that is playing well at the moment. Duke closes with Georgia Tech and rival North Carolina in the final two weeks of the season.
Virginia has won its last two games, with both victories coming on the road against Miami and Maryland, respectively. The Cavaliers became bowl eligible with a 31-13 thumping of the Terps last weekend, marking the first time since 2007 that the team will make a postseason appearance. It was also the third road win of the season for Virginia, which hasn't pulled that off in four years.
Virginia leads the all-time series with Duke, 32-30, but the Blue Devils have won the last three meetings.
For Duke, Sean Renfree is 10th in the ACC in pass efficiency (123.5), and has thrown for 2,185 yards this season with seven touchdowns against eight interceptions. He completed 19-of-25 passes for 181 yards with one touchdown and one interception last weekend against the Hurricanes. Connor Vernon and Donovan Varner have been the two most consistent wideouts for Renfree all year; Vernon leads the team in both receptions (6.2) and receiving yards (87) per game, while Varner averages 4.5 catches and 55.2 yards per game. Duke ranks 107th in the country in rushing offense, generating just 105.3 yards per game. Juwan Thompson leads the team in rushing at 44.5 yards per outing, but had just seven carries for 28 yards against Miami. Thompson has five rushing touchdowns this season, but has been held scoreless the past three games.
Duke's defense played inspired football two weeks ago in narrow 14-10 loss to Virginia Tech, but the Blue Devils were completely steamrolled by the Hurricane offense last weekend. Duke is 11th in the ACC in both total defense (410.2) and scoring defense (29.7), and the pass defense is last in the conference, surrendering 248.8 yards per game. This isn't a unit that gets a lot of pressure and creates takeaways, as the Blue Devils average just 4.5 tackles for loss per game and have registered seven takeaways this season. Matt Daniels has been a solid leader for Duke all year, and he ranks third in the ACC in tackles per game with 10.3.
Virginia's offense is keyed by a rushing attack that ranks third in the ACC with 190.1 yards per game. Perry Jones accounts for 86.8 yards per game, while Kevin Parks has been a deadly counterpart by contributing 67.2 yards per game. Jones has rushed for 782 yards this season and is closing in on a 1,000-yard rushing campaign quickly, while Parks has gained 538 yards on 104 carries and has scored seven touchdowns thus far.
Although Virginia has been devoted to the run for much of the season, the passing game is still generating 237.5 yards per game, good for sixth in the ACC. Michael Rocco has passed for 1,719 yards and eight touchdowns, but he has thrown nine interceptions. Only two of those picks have come in the past four games, where Rocco has thrown just 49 times combined.
Kris Burd is sixth in the ACC with 5.1 catches per game, and turns in 65.7 yards per outing. He caught nine passes for 112 yards last weekend against Maryland. Receiver Tim Smith also contributed 101 yards receiving against the Terps.
At the center of Virginia's win against Maryland was a three-interception performance from Rodney McLeod, who became the first player to pick off three passes for the program in 15 years. Virginia's defense is playing very well at the moment, as the Cavaliers are fourth in both rushing defense (126.3) and pass defense (205.3), and are 20th in the country in passing efficiency defense (114.2). Virginia also ranks second in the league with 6.7 tackles for loss per outing, and is second in the ACC in third-down defense, allowing a 32.9 conversion rate. Steve Greer leads the team with 8.5 tackles per game.
Virginia is playing well right now, and has established its identity around playing smash mouth football. The Cavaliers should be able to pierce the Duke front with its running game, and although Renfree gives the Blue Devils a shot in this game, quarterback play alone won't get it done.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia 24, Duke 17
11/09 10:59:29 ET