Virginia Tech football Duke preview

#87 R.P.I. Duke @ #13 R.P.I. Virginia Tech:

Virginia Tech football hosts visiting Duke this Saturday night at 7:20pm on ACC Network, in a Coastal Division Atlantic Coast clash.

The Hokies are a 15 point betting favorite (VT-15) and that brings us to our word of the day…

Today’s word of the day is… dickens.

dick·ens, dikənz

English noun, dated (1600’s)
  1. used for emphasis, euphemistically invoking the devil.
  2. used when asking questions to express annoyance or surprise.
  3. the look on the Hokie fan-base come ~11:30pm this Saturday night?

Duke Head Coach: David Nelson Cutcliffe: age=63, (4-4 year; 100-94 overall); has a rep’ for being a double Manning brother Qb guru before Corny or Fu’ had ever heard of the term: Qb-whisper.
$1,700,000.oo (i.e., underpaid)

Coach Cuttclife has only won the:

Broyles Award (1998)
SEC Coach of the Year (2oo3)
ACC Coach of the Year (2o12, 2o13)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year (2o13)
The Sporting News Co-Coach of the Year (2o13)
Maxwell Football Club Coach of the Year (2o13)
Bobby Dodd Coach of The Year (2o13)
AFCA Coach of the Year (2o13)
…yah; he sucks.

Coming up young David was a native of Birmingham, Ala., Cutcliffe graduated from the University of Alabama in 1976 and is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016. He got his start in coaching at Banks High School — his football playing alma mater — and spent four years as an assistant coach before becoming the head coach in 198o.

David has a rep’ for being an older Qb architect, magi, wizard, Sensei, whisper, Morpheus, call it what you will –just ask the UTennessee (Peyton) and Ole` Miss. (Eli) passing record books that basically read: “Manning” wherever you look.

As most of their records’ are actually his (coach DC’s).  Pre-coach Cutcliffe broke in and ran The Tide’s athletic dorms for “the Bear” at Alabama! Coach David has a National Title ring from Tennessee. And at Duke he only ended an 18 year bowl drought and likewise brought the Victory Bell (vs. rival U.n.c.) back to Raleigh-Durham. Then he logged Duke’s first ever double-digit (10) win season in Duke’s gridiron history.

He has been very loyal to his Staffers’; said nonpareil loyalty is said to have cost him the Ole` Miss. job; dang. David is a triple-bypass 99% blocked surgery survivor who then asked his rookie year Duke team to cut 1,000 lbs. in collective weight! Has only put six Qb’s in the N.f.l. and two other Qb’s into M.L.B. In addition, 10 of Cutcliffe’s signal-calling pupils have either earned all-conference honors or led their respective team to a bowl game victory. Yah; I’d say that counts. As this king David would make a fine Hokie. And I’ve never said that about an opposing coach before.

David is married to Karen Cutcliffe. They have four children: Marcus, Chris, Katie, and Emily and five grandsons.

Duke 2016 record: 4 up 8 down and 1-7 in the A.c.c.

Duke Defense: (starters back=4)

  • 4-2-5 triple Safety base.
  • 27th in Total D.
  • 40th vs. the run.
  • 40th vs. the pass.
  • 18th best in Qb’s sacked.
  • 7th in Tackles for a Loss inflicted!
  • 13th best in 3rd down conversion D! (big edge vis-à-vis VT here)
  • 23rd in defensive efficiency.
  • 15th in dLine Havoc. De Victor Dimukeje is legit on the edge and DT Mike Ramsay -who moved back to Dt this past spring; and is the only returning starter upfront- Ramsey is an explosive play-maker in the middle on film. Good run-fighting size exists at Dt, adequate or C- metrics are courted at De. Gotta block these two as as good as they are, there is a drop off to mere solids after them.
  • 27th in Linebacking Havoc. 6’2”, 233 lb., r-Soph. Will-Lb Joe Giles-Harris is the cock of the walk here. Mike plays in your backfield (14.5 TFL) and he plays there a lot. That being said, Mike-Lb Ben Humphreys may want a word with that as Bennie is a Baltic Ave. man’s Ben Taylor, though bigger. As Ben himself is on pace to become only the third Duke Lb with three 100+ tackle seasons. Not half bad from a kid with a history of shoulder ills (Godspeed). As his mom is quite possibly the best Stanford wimminz volleyballer ever, his dad was only PAC-10 defensive player of the year in football (Db), and kid sis’ was only the #1 volleyballer in South Carolina. wow! Linebacker is the strength of the Duke D on film, speed, sinew, noses for the ball plural; all cogently in play here.

    forty-two, Nickle base D.
  • 6th best in Secondary Havoc primarily thanks to being 4th best in America in passes picked as clearly this is a hind-4/5 that plays the ball not the man. This is further born out by a whopping 115th best in ISOPass rate or hemorrhaging a lotta yards after-catch. And the Duke Safety play is about as epic as it gets, Sexton II and McDuffie are entirely all over the place on film. They war smart, they war hard and they make things happen in the middle of the field vs. the run and the pass alike. Needless to say Cb is a bit less on edge -although more experienced as well, go fig’- and there is a “Bandit” or third-S here. Kinda a glorified Slot fighting Rover from Bud. Though they field a Rover-S (their Fs) and a Strike-S (their Ss) as well. A very high risk high reward secondary or something of a 1970’s Oaktown Raider hind-4 less a few hits.
  • Overall from what I saw Duke was just a little less crispy vs. the run than they were vs. the pass; although this is an above average run halt-unit. Make no mistake on that. I also read in Chris Coleman’s preview that the Duke defense is experiencing a 100% health matrix thus far –Praise the Lord! Don’t see that too often though that surely speaks -if not screams- to cohesion, gelling and familiarity between said top-11. Not to mention pure synergistic matriculation or defending positive slope over the 2017 campaign thus far.
  • Duke will use a 1-techniuqe nearly true Ng look with a very standard looking forty-two inside the Ot-box. They will press on edge and their two pseudo normal Safeties (Rover & Strike) play a lotta halves and are just a smidge shallow to aid and abet run-fighting. In fact at times Duke had all 11 within 8-9 of the L.O.S. (line of scrimmage) in normalized run-down coverage. And this does makes sense as a gusto seeking go for the ball or go for broke set. You will see some blitzing off the slot-Wr from Duke which vacates a lotta Will-Lb hook zone room just off the hashmark. Would that we had a real O&M Te here. Though still, not a real blitzy D by-the-bye. Duke does Mike-Lb spy on the Qb most plays; though they are +1 behind that on the Trip-Safety look so that actually does add up. Not the most epic tackling D for such heady student-athletes; as Duke goes a bit shallow or too aggressive at times. Though not a physically soft D either. The Duke D has been gashed by big ole HR type early plays in the last few weeks. A.K.A. only average recovery speed, not quite a plodding/stiff D, though not quite 100m specialists either. I.e., D is trick-play available with Tuesday right around the corner.

Defensive letter-grade:

Duke Offense: (returning starters=7)

  • 73rd in Total O.
  • 52nd in ground O.
  • 72nd in aerial O.
  • 115th in passing efficiency O.
  • 93rd in zone O.
  • 98th in Completion % O.
  • 118th in yards/completion.
  • 101st worst in sacks allowed | 101st as well in TFL allowed.
  • 103rd in explosion.
  • tho’ 10th best on 1st-down O. (go, fig’)
  • again… tho’ somehow 22nd in rushing success rate (go, really, fig’ here).
  • 14th in power rushing.
  • and 43rd hardest to tackle, (interesting).
  • As Duke’s top-3 ball carries (including their Qb1) all average 5.5 or better per carry. Shaun Wilson leads Duke in rushing though Britton Brown chips in smartly indeed. Duke does only field one rush north of 38 yards thus far so this is a gain moving as opposed to game-breaking rushing attack. Though the Duke Rb’s run hard on film, low pad level, forward lean, the downhill with just a little swivel hips works.
  • 6’5”, 214 lb. r-soph., Qb1, Daniel Jones has 4 fumbles. He is also a 54% passer with a less than shiny 8:6 passing ratio on the year. Which makes much more sense when you see he’s been abused by 21 sacks thus far. Daniel did quick-kick on film and he’s got a pretty decent leg for it at that. Duke has logged four completions >52 yards this season so there is something of a vertical stretch element in effect here. Jones was a pretty good hoopsters in high school at Charlotte Latin H.S. (if that tells you anything). As I did not see him listed as a top-100 recruit by any of the three major services. Did see Harris (Qb2) on wildcat type looks and Qb keepers in the red-zone.
  • The Duke catch-rate is erratic as the top-5 Dukie grab-game guys go, with a low of 41% and a high of 77%. Third year undersized Wr T.J. Rahming, Jr., a ultra-quick 5’10” 165 pounder is the best of a decent though less than big play lot here. And he does have 191% more grabs than any one else in a wide-receiving crops that fields no less than nine different guys with eight snags or more. Though Te Davis Koppenhaver does enjoy three scores on only ten catches –so look for big #81 in the red-zone. As Duke is still waiting for VHT’s Young and Bracey to breakout at wideout.

    Duke base spread O (in black).
  • The Duke oLine is solid to very good and the very good parts are: Ot Gabe Brandner, C Austin Davis, G Zach Harmon. As I do not consider it hyperbole that two -or possibly even all three- would unseat the Vice Squad counterparts at VT. As the top-5 is quality here and a lifer back-up grad-transfer from “the” OH.State makes them officially six deep. As this oLine is also pretty dang thin. Not the biggest oLine (only one starter north of 3o5 lbs.); though nimble and technical and smart.
  • For any spread set you know the drill by now… right? Qb in shotgun most of the time, Hb offset to Qb’s R or L; with 3 Wr’s. Did see what looked like a narrower protection shell or tighter oLine splits; at least in pass protect. Qb Jones reminds me more than a scosche of 1-read literary Evans. He sure stairs down the front or play-side on tape. You can jump some of his throws as his arm is no better than C+/B-. Not often does he progress to the back-side tertiary or quadratic-read(s). Jones will also throw the ball into tight spaces, in particular in and around the goaline. The C to Qb shotgun pass was not elite at all times; watch for this. Deeper spread set passing than typical, and Duke will work the entire medium 53.33 yards east-west. Accordingly, not a whole lotta sit-down hook/curl type routing; everything receiving is on the move. Qb (Jones) will go America’s Cup with a few sailing throws both high and long; coach Scott please report to the preview dance-floor.
  • 53% run:pass 47% mix.

Offensive letter-grade:

Duke Special Teams: (1.5 returns)
Duke is only 97th best in Net Punting and that could translate into some sweet hidden-field position if this one devolves into a hunting/gathering defensive scrum. P, Parker Austin is a 6’1”, 190 lb. r-soph who has rushed twice and attempted a pass already going two for three on converted fake-punts thus far! He was the starting Duke P last year although a snapped clavicle (collarbone) kyboshed all of that (Godspeed). He has had one career punt snuffed out with a long of 68 yards. He was the no.8 P in America according to 247. And as a high school senior Qb he completed 63-of-134 passes for 1,148 yards and nine TD’s. So yah; you can see what the trickeration is born of here.

  • 86th in Punt Returns | although 10th best in KO returns.
  • 57th in punt coverage | and 44th in suicide-squad
  • Duke has blocked no kicks and allowed 2 kicks to be blocked.
  • Duke has blocked no punts and allowed 0 punts to be blocked.

FG-Kicker Austin Parker  is a 6’1”, 190 lb. r-soph. who is 25 of 26 on P.A.T.’s and yet 11 of 15 (73%) on his FG-attempts; with a long of 45. Or 85% when he’s not getting his FGA’s blocked. Austin has decent although less than bionic FG kicking strength and seems reliable enough out into the very low 40’s give/take. Mummy Austin is only the So.Carolina career leader in blocks for wimminz hoops and daddy Austin only punted professional as a Gamecock for the Denver Broncos. Yes I’d be willing to say this sporting Human Genome Project counts.

Special Teams letter-grade: if not for those two blocked FGA’s this is a pretty pretty final grade, nonetheless, I’ll go good for a low B+ as is.

Unit Rankings:

  1. VT D.
  2. Duke D.
  3. VT O.
  4. Duke O.


  • motive: Duke is fighting for whatever bowling odds they have left at 4-4, and VT is prolly looking ahead to a balmy November excursion to So.Beach. Edge=Duke.
  • weather: with a rainy/chilly Saturday night down in the New River Valley on tap; this marks the first time I’ve got to fill this bullet in all year… and it (of course) favors the better run-fit team. Edge=Duke.
  • health: Duke=healthiest team I’ve seen at this point; possibly; ever. Big Edge=Duke.
  • penalties: Edge=Push. Nearly even, here.
  • intangibles: 50% of the Duke 2-deep is comprised of t-sophomores or less as class-rank goes as coach D.C. is playing 2019; today. Edge=VT.
  • fatigue: VT is still +6 on R&R in the last fortnight. Edge=VT.


Beating Duke at home on Saturday night is all about ... what???

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Illation, conclusion(s) and OPT digits:

Number of Dukies who could start @Tech=6

the takeaway:

The takeaway here is… Duke has gone 4 up every bit as much as Duke then went 4 down on quad streaks in each direction leaving Duke a .5oo ball-club at the moment.

However; when you dig closer the most recent three Duke L’s were all by one full-play (i.e. seven points) apiece. As this Duke football team is not all that far removed from 6-2 or thereabouts. So Duke is better than their latent record shows; the only real calculus you need apply is… by just how much?



  1. Δ1=20% I suppose one could argue that having not won a football game in little over a month that Duke is getting (too) used to L’ing. Mix in a bad weather day and maybe that Dukie football squirts free in VT’s favor and the Hokies win big.
  2. Δ2=20% of course and on the other hand, I suppose one could make the argument that it is VT that experiences a Bart Simpson or butterfingers quality day at the office and this one squirts free from the Hokies. As Duke will prolly need some Hokie help to win on the road here.
  3. Δ3=60% all of that subjective though entirely possible turnover prone innuendo firmly and yet in nebulous place… the far more likely scenario is that these two pigskin S.A.T. bowl bound Atlantic Coach Coaches basically cancel each other out, and that puts this one in the hands of the ballers themselves.
    Virginia Tech football enjoys the greater gridiron talent(s) here and wins this one slowly yet surely; even with Duke and any Stormy Weather hanging around for more than a little bit with VT only winning by 1.5 to 2 full plays.

the skinny
I said this last week, did I not? “Run the damn ball!” As one of the things I left outta my much-viewed U.n.c. Tech Thoughts (God Bless you readers); was that I’ve noticed something disturbing about the Fu’fense. Though to give a little room here would be to say… maybe this nag’ is a necessary evil inherit to the construct that is the Fu’fense itself? (i.e. maybe the Fu’fense can not do work any other way or with any other play-mix?)

Though one of the things I’ve noticed, in 21 games of Fu’fencing right along… is that coach-Fu’ (and/or Corny) have ignored elevated rushing opportunities to maintain their intrinsic run:pass mix. Even when encountering statistically and film-study rather inviting front-7 user-friendly opponents.

To put that another way… in 2016 the Fu’fense pet matrix was 42% pass and 58% run, and guess what the 2017 Fu’fense play-calling matrix is? You guessed it, the 2017 Fu’fense matrix is… 42% pass and 58% run.

Or all that to say that the Fu’fense is rather inflexibly narcissistic on their throw sets. Now maybe Fu’ and Corny would say -or even argue- that a little more than a 40/60 split is necessary to make the Fu’fense go. i.e. each hand feeds as opposed to bites the other.

Perhaps they are even correct… still yet; how much money would you have bet on the matrix being exactly the same with what we just departed from 2016? I neither; so I’ll say it a third time… “run the damn, ball!”

Brain on Brain… crime!

The call
…so why am I saying “run the damn ball” vs. the 40th best trench fighters in all the land you ask?

Well I’m saying it because Duke has had a Dickens of a time in stopping the run of late. Check it out… in their “best of times” first four games Duke out-gained their opponents by virtually exactly 8oo total yards overall and by a downright enforcing +62o on the ground; all while opening up 4-zip. However, in their most recent “worst of times” four game schneid Duke stands in at just immediately over 35o overall and yet a mauled looking 33o deficit on the ground!

As try as we might, football still ain’t rocket-surgery gents…
—square peg met square, hole.

upset Index=22%.

Virginia Tech=33, Duke=16




6 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. A wise man once said “just win baby”. Don’t care how comely or ugly. Good as always, street. Ty

    1. Oh no doubt.

      Get this one over with A.S.A.P.
      Get off the Worsham (soggy bottom) field and get into Miami prep’.


  2. It’s going to be ugly, but the good guys get the win. Bet the Dookies and points, and the under.

    23-17. Hokies.

    1. Yah; wanna see the weather late tomorrow afternoon.
      Though I’m leaning under at the moment as well.


  3. Excellent background on the man known as Coach Cut… But please add a fourth voting option:
    VT Explodes on offense and sends the Blue Devils back to Durham wanting no more of the Hokies!!!

    We see first hand the coach ability of this team, as no way Coach Fuente didn’t have a revival session w/ the offense, specifically the left side of the O-line, which seemed to check out last week. I look for some rock carrying and who knows call my sly like a Fox… but would like to see how he looks in Q1!

    Let’s Go…Hokies!!!

    1. Same drill as above.

      Weather looking soaking here (Bluefield).
      And Bluefield weather=Blacksburg weather a hour early give/take.

      Bad weather and I doubt either side could light the other up with this much combined D.


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