Game preview: Duke vs. Virginia

Posted by Laura Keeley on October 19, 2013 

Duke vs. UVA

When: 3:30 p.m.

Where: Scott Satdium, Charlottesville, Va.

Line: UVA by 3

TV/Radio: Regional Sports Networks/Fox Sports Carolinas, WDNC-620 AM, WKIX-102.9 FM

Scouting Virginia (2-4, 0-2 in the ACC ):

This is a desperate team—after playing Duke, the Cavaliers finish the season with Georgia Tech, Clemson, at UNC, at Miami and Virginia Tech. Even the most optimistic observer would have trouble spotting more than one win in that group.

First-year QB David Watford has struggled so far, and his best performance of the season came last week in the loss to Maryland: 27-of-44 (61.2 percent) for 263 yards and a touchdown, and—most importantly—no turnovers. The Cavaliers rank last in the ACC in turnover margin (minus-five) and have given up the ball a league-high 14 times.

Tight end Jake McGee is Watford’s top target, and he also had his biggest game to date last weekend, catching eight passes for 14 yards and a touchdown. Running back Kevin Parks anchors a rushing offense that ranks fifth in the ACC, averaging 188.8 yards per game.

Two of Virginia’s best defensive players—DT Brent Urban and CB Demetrious Nicholson—are out with injuries. For more on the Cavaliers, check out this Q&A with UVA beat writer Andrew Ramspacher.

Scouting Duke (4-2, 0-2)

For the Blue Devils, this represents a rivalry game, and I chalk that up to two different factors: it’s typically a somewhat chippy and it’s the one opponent the Blue Devils have consistently beat in the Cutcliffe era. Duke is 4-1 against Virginia in the past five years.

The key for the Blue Devils will be achieving some consistency on defense and generating pressure on Watford.

“We're better than we played against Pitt and Georgia Tech. I can promise you,” head coach David Cutcliffe said of his defense. “We intermittently played good in those games. What it came down to was not playing 60 minutes.”

Duke injury report:

PROBABLE

QB Brandon Connette (lower body)

DT A.J. Wolf (leg)

QUESTIONABLE

WR Johnell Barnes (hand)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

LB Kyler Brown (leg)

QB Thomas Sirk (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

OT Tanner Stone (leg)

DT Jamal Wallace (leg)

Good news for Duke as Brandon Connette is back in his backup quarterback role. S Deondre Singleton also returns after a one-game suspension for ducking some of his academic responsibilities.

Key Player for Virginia:

RB Kevin Parks, R-Jr.

Parks, a 5-foot-8, 205-pound rusher from Salisbury, NC, leads the Cavaliers with 510 rushing yards on 116 attempts (4.4 yards per attempt) and six touchdowns. He is also UVA’s second-leading receiver with 19 catches for 182 yards.

“He's done an outstanding job of understanding what's asked for in the running game particularly when you see a little bit of the pistol effect, when you see some I‑back stuff, throwing the ball, coming out of the backfield, so he's done really nice things with his skill set,” UVA head coach Mike London said. “He's a tough runner. He may not get out and run away from you, although he's had some long runs in his career thus far, but he's very tough, and he's so low to the ground, big legs.”

Key Matchup:

Virginia’s offensive line vs. Duke’s defensive line

Every year, Cutcliffe and the players mention how big the Cavaliers are on the line. Tall, too, with every starter on the line at least 6-foot-5. Left tackle Morgan Moses (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) leads the unit. Last week against the Terrapins, then the nation’s third-best team in collecting sacks, Virginia allowed none.

For Duke, the equation this year has been simple: get pressure on the quarterback, and the rest of the defense can play well enough to win.

Key Mismatch:

Duke’s passing game vs. Virginia’s secondary

Other than Georgia Tech (which had the luxury of facing Connette in his first start), no team has been able to prevent Duke from putting up points. This UVA unit was carved up last week by Maryland backup quarterback Caleb Rowe. Expect QB Anthony Boone and WR Jamison Crowder to have big games

Key Numbers:

4-0—Boone’s record as a starting quarterback (not including the come-from-behind win at Wake Forest last year, which he entered in the fourth quarter)

3—Consecutive games with a TD reception for WR Max McCaffrey

Pulse Check:

How big of a rival does Duke consider Virginia?

“It’s up there with the Carolina game,” CB Ross Cockrell said. “There is a lot of back and forth between the players during the game, whether you are on offense or defense. It’s one of the more intense games we play each year.”

My prediction:

Duke is playing well, and Virginia is not. The Cavaliers are hurt, struggling across the board and desperate for a win. It’s hard to see the Blue Devils’ passing attack missing a beat up in Charlottesville, and the defense will do just enough to push Duke to win No. 5

Duke 38, UVA 31

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