Virginia Tech and Duke find themselves in opposite positions than their histories when they play an ACC football game at noon Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Blue Devils (6-3, 3-2 ACC) are already bowl eligible after posting three consecutive losing seasons and missing the postseason from 2019-2021.
Virginia Tech (2-7, 1-5), owner of the nation’s longest streak of consecutive seasons with a bowl appearance, is already destined to be finished once the regular season is complete. The Hokies played in bowls over 27 consecutive seasons before going 5-6 during the pandemic-marred 2020 season.
Virginia Tech returned to a bowl game last season, but was trounced 54-10 by Maryland in the Pinstripe Bowl to complete a 6-7 season. Now, riding a six-game losing streak under first-year Brent Pry, the Hokies are assured of a third coach losing season.
Duke has won its last two games, including a 38-31 win at Boston College on Friday that made the Blue Devils bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.
Duke is in second place in the ACC Coastal Division standings, trailing only North Carolina (8-1, 5-0). The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are the only Coastal Division teams with winning league records.
A win over Virginia Tech would give Duke four ACC wins in the same season for the first time since 2015. The Blue Devils entered this season having lost 13 consecutive league games while going 4-22 in ACC play over the last three seasons.
Three Duke players to watch
Riley Leonard, QB: The sophomore continued his breakout season, unleashing a 60-yard touchdown run at Boston College last Friday. Leonard leads Duke in rushing yards (577) and rushing touchdowns (nine). He’s averaging 6.34 yards per carry, tops among ACC quarterbacks. Louisville’s Malik Cunningham (5.2 yards) is next. Leonard has also completed 64.4% of his passes this season, throwing for 11 touchdowns against four interceptions.
Darius Joiner, S: He’s Duke’s leading tackler with 71 this season, which includes 51 solo stops, with seven tackles for loss. He’s No. 8 overall in the ACC in tackles. This is one year after Joiner led all Football Championship Subdivision players with 142 tackles at Western Illinois. Increasingly active in Duke’s blitz packages, Joiner has two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble as well.
Jordan Waters, RB: Became Duke’s starting running back over the last four games with Jaylen Coleman sidelined by a lower-body injury. Though Coleman was in uniform at Boston College, he stayed on the sidelines as Waters gained 51 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown, his eighth of the season. Waters’ production, along with Leonard, has Duke averaging 208.1 rushing yards per game, second in the ACC.
Three Virginia Tech players to watch
Grant Wells, QB: The junior is having a rough season with as many interceptions (eight) as touchdown throws (eight). His 58.5 completion percentage is better than only one other ACC quarterback (Virginia’s Brennan Armstrong is at 54.9%). He’s failed to throw for at least 200 yards in four ACC games this season, including last Saturday’s 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech when he threw for 164 yards. Wells does have six touchdown runs.
Kaleb Smith, WR: The most player on a Virginia Tech explosive offense that is averaging only 20.2 points per game this season. Smith, a senior, leads the Hokies in receptions (35) and receiving yards (647) with three touchdowns. He’s averaging 18.5 yards per reception, third in the ACC.
Dax Hollifield, LB: The senior continues to be a decent player even though his team isn’t having success. Hollifield leads the Hokies in tackles (67), with 28 solo stops. He has five tackles for loss this season but only two have come in Virginia Tech’s last seven games.
Vegas betting odds
Duke opened as a 10-point favorite over Virginia Tech on Sunday.
Virginia Tech at Duke game and TV info
Who: Virginia Tech (2-7, 1-5) at Duke (6-3, 3-2)
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham
When: Noon, Saturday
TV: RSN (Fox Sports South in NC)
Stream: Bally Sports Plus