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Pick 'em: Duke at Virginia Tech

I've spent all week asking myself this question. If No. 23 Virginia Tech put up 49 points before halftime and scored on seven of its first eight possessions against Wake Forest, what is going to happen Saturday when Tyrod Taylor and Co. face Duke at Lane Stadium?

The Blue Devils' defense comes in ranked 112th in the nation, allowing 37.8 points per game, and that's after an encouraging performance against Miami last week when the Hurricanes won 28-13. Duke also ranks 101st in the country in total defense, giving up nearly 435 yards per contest.

This could be a landmark day for the Hokies running backs. Sophomore Ryan Williams is expected to return after missing four games with a right hamstring injury. Running backs coach Billy Hite said earlier this week that Williams would play only "a couple of series," but that may be more that enough to do some damage. The Blue Devils have one of the worst rushing defenses in the country as well, with opponents gaining close to 211 yards every game against them.

The spread reflects all of these Duke weaknesses, as Virginia Tech is currently a 27-point favorite. But even though this could be a blowout, there are a couple Hokie-related subplots to keep your eye on.

One is how the workload is distributed amongst the running backs. Junior Darren Evans is getting the start, but with Williams back I'm curious to see how much sophomore David Wilson is involved in the offense now.

The Virginia Tech defense, which could be missing safety Eddie Whitley after he was listed as doubtful with a foot injury, also must show some improvement after Wake Forest running back Josh Harris gained a record 241 yards against them last week. With Georgia Tech's option attack looming, the Hokies must demonstrate they're able to avoid explosive plays, especially in the run game.

Like last week, though, this one could get ugly quick. That will almost certainly happen if Duke quarterback Sean Renfree continues his trend of throwing interceptions. My guess is the Hokies have their reserves in by the middle of the third quarter, but have trouble beating the spread thanks to some garbage time scores.

Remember kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will be broadcast by the ACC Network (formerly Raycom).

My prediction: Virginia Tech 48, Duke 21

But what do you think will happen. Will Virginia Tech coast into its bye week? Or can Duke wins its first game over a division I-A opponent since a victory over Virginia on October 31, 2009?

By Mark Giannotto  | October 22, 2010; 8:51 AM ET
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