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Beyond the X's and O's, what makes college football so great is the underlying stories that develop surrounding each and every game. There is no shortage of interesting storylines for Virginia's next game at Duke on Saturday night in Durham. From the first meeting between new head coaches to the preservation of a long winning streak to the impact an impending hurricane will inevitably have on the game, here's five key storylines to follow for the Virginia-Duke game. 

UVA-Duke Stat Comparison

1. Mike Elko vs. Tony Elliott

12 head coaches made their collegiate debut this season and three of them are in the ACC Coastal division. Tony Elliott and Mike Elko meet for the first time as head coaches of their respective programs this weekend. Adding another layer of intrigue to this matchup is that back in December, when both Virginia and Duke were conducting coaching searches, Tony Elliott interviewed with both schools before ultimately choosing UVA, while the Blue Devils hired Mike Elko, who previously served as the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M. Elko has done extremely well so far in taking over a struggling Duke program and leading it to a strong 3-1 start, but his true test starts now with the beginning of ACC play against Tony Elliott and the Cavaliers, who are also looking for their first conference victory of the season. 

2. UVA's seven-game winning streak over Duke

The Cavaliers enter this matchup with history on their side. Virginia leads the all-time series with Duke 40-33 and has won each of the last seven meetings dating back to 2015. UVA's last four wins have each come by double-digit margins, including a 48-0 rout of the Blue Devils last season. But, as both teams will be quick to tell you, the past has no bearing on what will happen in this matchup and there is plenty of reason to suggest this game is different, especially with two new coaching staffs meeting for the first time.

Due to scheduling adjustments for the COVID-19 season in 2020, Virginia hosted Duke in Charlottesville in three consecutive seasons from 2019-2021. So, this is the first time since 2018 that UVA has traveled to Durham, where Duke holds a 19-14 all-time record against Virginia. Under a new head coach, the Blue Devils will certainly be looking to get back on the winning side of this rivalry. 

3. Brennan Armstrong vs. Riley Leonard

Coming into the season, Brennan Armstrong was rightfully touted as one of the best returning quarterbacks both in the ACC and in the country after his record-breaking 2021 campaign. Duke sophomore Riley Leonard, on the other hand, largely flew under the radar among the league's quarterbacks after starting just one game for the Blue Devils as a freshman last year. Those roles have been completely reversed so far. 

Through four games ,Leonard has completed 72 of 101 passing attempts for an ACC-leading completion percentage of 71.3%. He has thrown six touchdowns to only two interceptions and his 1,047 passing yards ranks second in the ACC and his 174.01 passer rating ranks third. Armstrong, meanwhile, is off to a mystifyingly horrible start. He has completed 73 of 140 passing attempts (52.1%) for 848 yards and has thrown three touchdowns to four interceptions, the third-most interceptions in the ACC. Only three other quarterbacks in the conference have thrown less touchdown passes and Armstrong ranks last in the ACC in passer rating and completion percentage. 

Brennan Armstrong trying to regain his 2021 form and Riley Leonard looking to continue his hot start are major storylines this week. But in this game, it won't be surprising to see if neither quarterback is on his A-game given the expected weather conditions. 

4. Hurricane Ian 

This game is likely to come down to which team can execute better in a torrential downpour more than anything else. Hurricane Ian is set to bring storms into the state of North Carolina from Saturday into Sunday morning, perfectly lining up with Saturday night's game in Durham. Both teams will be hesitant to throw the ball and will instead try to move forward with the ground game as much as possible. The Blue Devils will have no problem with that, as they are among the league leaders in yards per rush (5.4), rushing yards per game (188.5), and rushing touchdowns (10). Virginia's own run game is also much improved this season, but ball security may be an issue. UVA has been working with wet balls in practice to simulate the rainy conditions expected during the game and many players, including the Cavalier receivers, have been practicing without gloves. Which team takes care of the football better will likely determine the victor.

5. Both defenses love to force fumbles

Even without the effects of a hurricane, ball security was always going to be a major factor in this matchup. Virginia and Duke have both recovered seven fumbles this season, which is tied for the most in the entire FBS. The Blue Devils have forced nine fumbles, recovering seven of them, while the Cavaliers have forced eight, recovering all but one. The defenders on both teams have a nose for the football and they aren't satisfied to just make the tackle - they want to get the ball out too. With the help of expected wet and slippery conditions, ball carriers and quarterbacks on both offenses will have to be extra careful to secure the football at all times or else this matchup could quickly develop into a turnover-fest. 

Stay tuned to CavaliersNow for more preview coverage of Virginia-Duke.

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