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Duke will need to contain the Hokies' offense to stay in the game.

X Factor: Duke football vs. Virginia Tech



Desperate to avoid slipping under .500 with a fifth straight loss, the Blue Devils look to right the ship with an upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech Saturday on the road.

Every week throughout the football season, the Blue Zone will break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest:

Duke: Wide Receiver T.J. Rahming

The junior receiver has been one of the bright spots for Duke during the past two weeks, which have seen the Blue Devils suffer a pair of disappointing defeats. Rahming had 111 yards receiving against Florida State, and then set a new season high with 142 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Though quarterback Daniel Jones has struggled in recent weeks, Rahming has been steady and continues to be Jones’ favorite target. 

Virginia Tech’s dominant defense has held opponents to under 300 total yards on average and has surrendered only 12.7 points per game, an ACC-best. This season, Rahming has delivered in the clutch and proven that he is prepared to carry a significant load on offense, something that he will likely be tasked with in this matchup. If Duke is to pull off the upset, he will have to make big plays and continue to provide Jones with an open target.

Virginia Tech: Quarterback Josh Jackson

Following Jerod Evans’s surprising draft declaration, Jackson has stepped in under center and has already exceeded expectations. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,832 yards and tossed 16 touchdowns, including three in last weekend’s rout of North Carolina. He has proven himself to be both an accurate passer, as shown by his 64.2% completion rate, and a good decision-maker, with only four interceptions. Jackson is also a dual-threat, capable of keeping drives alive with big plays on the ground.

Considering Duke’s recent trouble finding the end zone, the Blue Devils will likely be unable to turn this game into a shootout against the Hokies’ fearsome defense. To grab a much-needed win, they will need to contain Jackson and limit Virginia Tech’s aerial attack. As the Hokies are also quite capable of scoring on defense and special teams, with three such touchdowns last week, the Blue Devils simply cannot afford to allow Jackson and his receiving corps to get into a rhythm or they will find themselves in a deep hole that could be impossible to dig out of.


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