Next up for Duke is Virginia and that’s an ACC rivalry that could be getting ready for a renewal.
Last season Virginia turned Duke over six times and won 34-20. Five of those were interceptions and the sixth was a seriously hard hit and a fumble which Virginia recovered for a touchdown.
The loss came a week after Duke won at Notre Dame and Duke would win just twice more in an injury-racked season.
After that game, Jones tightened up a lot and played at much higher level.
This is Virginia’s second season under former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall (Bronco really is his name by the way and his sons are named Raeder, Breaker and Cutter).
The Cavs finished last season 2-10 and so far this year are 3-1.
It’s fair to say they haven’t played a Murderer’s Row. Virginia beat William & Mary 28-10, Indiana 34-17, UConn 38-18 and Boise State 42-23.
However, the Broncos are not off to a great season. Currently 2-2, Boise State beat Troy and New Mexico but lost to Washington State (in triple OT) and Virginia 42-23.
It took some courage to play a road game on the blue field of Albertsons Stadium but UVA did it and gave Boise its worst home loss in years.
All that tells us is that we don’t know yet how good UVA is. We suspect they’re pretty good but Mendenhall is still building his program and hasn't had enough time to install his own players into his system. He’s just one class in and presumably most of his freshmen are either redshirting or far down the depth chart.
His quarterback, Kurt Benkert, is a fifth-year senior with vastly more experience than Duke’s Daniel Jones and he’s having a great year.
Jones is having a solid year but he’s having to spend too much time worrying about his line taking care of him: Jones has been sacked 21 times - the most in the ACC. That works out to 4.2 per game.
Clearly the line needs to do a better job of protecting him.
Mendenhall came up as a defensive coordinator so you can expect his teams to pay attention on that end of the field (they sure did last time around against Duke).
Expect both teams to air it out but look for Duke to turn to the running game a fair amount. Senior Shaun Wilson and redshirt freshman Brittain Brown will likely be the main ground weapons although Jones likes to take off with the ball too.
As noted above, the Duke-Virginia rivalry was at one point one of the best in the ACC. Several years ago a Virginia player said he hated Duke but he wasn’t quite sure why.
That made us laugh because we were pretty sure we knew the reason: years earlier, Steve Spurrier had gotten under the skin of then-Virginia coach George Welsh.
Welsh, a graduate of the Naval Academy, coached there before taking the UVA job. He always came across to us as a no-nonsense guy with a real military bearing and dignity and he clearly didn’t appreciate Spurrier’s loosey-goosey approach to things.
Spurrier had a rare genius for pissing people off and it certainly worked for Virginia.
That edge is gone now but with Duke in renaissance and Virginia apparently heading there, it could come back.
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