Duke at Virginia
Time: 11:20 AM (CT), Saturday
Spread: UVA -2.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Duke Blue Devils suffered its first loss of the 2017 season last week, falling 31-6 to Miami. Week 6 brings another challenge to Duke as it travels to face Virginia as 2.5-point underdogs in a game with a high over/under of 52.5 points.
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Duke’s offense had been dominant this season until it ran into No. 14 ranked Miami. The Hurricanes put the clamps on Duke and held the Devils to just 4.0 yards per pass attempt (166 total passing yards) and 4.0 per rush attempt on 46 attempts for 183 yards.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones also threw an interception while failing to launch any for touchdowns, as Duke did not score a touchdown in the game but got just two field goals from kicker Austin Parker. It was a mystifying lack of production from a team that had averaged 40.5 points per game in its first four contests. Duke will hope to rediscover its scoring potential against Virginia, and the Cavaliers have been stingy enough defensively in its own right.
UVA has allowed just 20.5 points per game over the past two weeks and has not given up more than 18 points on the season. Granted, it has faced some mediocre programs, but Boise State was held to just 23 points last week as a school sometimes capable of moving the football.
This game is just tough to evaluate from that standpoint: Is Virginia a good defensive team or has it merely shutdown some cupcakes in 2017? Duke has the weapons to put pressure on the Cavaliers, and its top two ball-carriers both average better than six yards-per-carry. Jones is prone to making some mistakes and has averaged just 5.94 yards per pass attempt with three picks to his five touchdowns. That alone could keep this game closer, but Jones had an interception last week against Miami and he had a pick in Weeks 2 & 3, as well.
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Virginia is 3-1 with victories over William and Mary, UConn and Boise State, but a Week 2 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers. Starting quarterback Kurt Benkert has 1,249 yards on 66.1 percent passing with 10 Touchdowns and just one interception. He has a passer rating of 144.2, and he is getting some major contributions from junior running back Olamide Zaccheaus. He has rushed for 111 yards on just six carries, and he has also caught 30 passes for 279 yards with two receiving TDs. The 5-foot-8 190 pound back is small, but explosive and quick, and along with No. 1 ball carrier Jordan Ellis, the Cavaliers have some tools. Ellis has rushed a team-high 78 times for 312 yards and has five TDs on the season.
Given Virginia’s home field edge in this game and how dangerous its backfield can be, we expect the oddsmakers projections to mostly hold in this one. Duke is coming off an inexplicably bad week, but Virginia has shown itself to be a better team than the doormat it has been in the past.
Duke is coming off an inexplicably bad week, but Virginia has shown itself to be a better team than the doormat it has been in the past. Virginia leads the all-time series 35-33, but Duke has won six of the past nine. Benkert threw for 336 yards and three TDs in last season’s win. Blue Devils’ WR Jonathan Lloyd had a career-high nine catches for 82 yards last week in Duke’s loss. Keep an eye on him to play a bigger role this week.