Big Game Preview: UVA faces Duke in key ACC Coastal Division showdown

Which Duke team do you get if you’re UVA heading into this weekend? The one that just dominated Georgia Tech and beat Northwestern earlier in the season? Or the one that laid the big egg at home against Virginia Tech?

I’d go with the recency bias, and write off Virginia Tech as Duke (5-1, 1-1 ACC) trying to rush Daniel Jones back too fast.

In that one, a 31-14 Duke loss, Jones put up what looked like decent numbers – 23-for-35, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT – but the QB, after missing the Baylor and North Carolina Central wins due to injury, just wasn’t on point.

Neither was the otherwise stout Duke defense on that night, surrendering 439 yards and allowing Ryan Willis to throw for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

The Duke defense was back to its old ways in Atlanta, limiting the Yellow Jackets, coming off back-to-back 60+-point performances, to 14 points and 354 yards.

Jones and the offense, on its side, did enough. Jones threw for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and tailback Deon Jackson ran for 98 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The key in the win was turnovers. Duke forced three of them, and the offense converted all three into second-half touchdowns.

Virginia (4-2, 2-1 ACC) defeated then-No. 15 Miami 16-13 on Saturday despite committing three first-half turnovers against the usually opportunistic ‘Canes.

But it was the UVA defense forcing three Miami turnovers, and the ‘Hoos offense converting those into 10 points, that turned the tables on the Turnover Chain gang.

Virginia won despite gaining just 231 yards, and seeing quarterback Bryce Perkins struggle for the second consecutive week.

Perkins has thrown seven interceptions in his past two games, and has thrown seven picks on the season.

Breakdown

  • Duke offense vs. UVA defense: Duke averages 390.0 yards per game, 10th in the ACC. Jones is second in the ACC in pass efficiency, completing 68.2 percent of his passes, with eight TDs and 2 INTs. The Blue Devils rank 11th in the conference in rushing, averaging 174.5 yards per game, and 4.3 yards per carry. The Virginia D is third in total defense (327.0 yards per game), sixth against the run (130.0 yards per game) and sixth in pass defense efficiency.
  • UVA offense vs. Duke defense: Virginia averages 386.8 yards per game, 11th in the ACC. Perkins is fifth in the ACC in pass efficiency, completing 62.7 percent of his passes, with 11 TDs and 7 INTs. Tailback Jordan Ellis is third in the ACC in rushing (94.0 yards per game). Wideout Olamide Zaccheaus leads the ACC with six TD catches, and ranks fourth in the conference in receptions per game (6.0). Duke ranks fifth in the ACC total defense (350.0 yards per game), eighth against the run (140.5 yards per game) and is fourth in pass defense efficiency.
  • Special Teams: UVA suddenly can kick field goals, after kickoff specialist Brian Delaney rose to #1 on the depth chart, then went 3-for-3, with a long of 47 yards, in the win over Miami. Duke placekicker Collin Wareham is 4-of-5 on the season, with a long of 35. Duke punter Austin Parker averages 44.1 yards per kick. Virginia’s Lester Coleman averages 42.1 yards per punt. Delaney averages 63.5 yards per kickoff, with 18 touchbacks on 31 kicks for UVA. Duke kickoff specialist Jack Driggers averages 55.1 yards per kickoff, with 12 touchbacks on 34 kicks.

How This One Plays Out

Do opponents have a book on Perkins? Five picks and 85 total yards rushing in his last two have me worried, and I doubt I’m alone there. You might see a scaled-back game plan as a result, the focus being on avoiding mistakes that can turn into short fields for Duke. The ‘Hoos on D will be tested by Jones and in particular the Duke ground game. Expect a tight, low-scoring game.

Line: Duke -7.5

Final: Duke 17, UVA 13

Preview by Chris Graham

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