We sent over a few questions to Ben Swain (Writer for ACCSports.com, TheLedger-Online, on Twitter @TheDevilWolf, and co-host of The Walk-ons Podcast) ahead of this week's game against the Blue Devils. If you don't already, give Ben a follow at the Twitter handle linked above. He is a Duke homer through-and-through, but is a master of the trolling arts, and every once in a while he throws out a bit of valid knowledge. You know, as much as a Duke guy can.
Here are his answers to our questions:
State Of The U: Soooooooooo you guys still want to play, or you just wanna flip a coin?
Ben Swain: Absolutely we want to play. All in all, this has been a fun year for Duke fans in Wallace Wade Stadium and I'm sad to see it end.
State Of The U: Seriously though, are you at all worried about Coach Cut leaving for greener pastures, or are you confident that he's there to stay for a while?
Ben Swain: Not at all. There's just too much happening at Duke right now for him to want to leave. He's well paid, his staff is well paid, and the school has approved a massive project to completely renovate the stadium beginning after the final game of the 2013 season. He's gotten everything he's asked for at Duke in terms of facilities and support from the President, and he's got a young team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores making significant contributions on both sides of the ball, and especially on special teams. That's honestly been the most exciting aspect of this season is that better times are ahead, especially with Florida State rolling off of the schedule. He says he's happy at Duke and that he is committed to staying, but even if he did have a desire to get back to the SEC, this isn't the season to do it. His stock will keep going up. But my gut feel says he's staying at Duke for the long haul. There's something to be said for job security when you're as old as Cutcliffe.
State Of The U: How do you think Duke plans to stop Duke?
Ben Swain: I'm not sure you can. Duke did a good job of keeping Gio Bernard in check in the kicking game, and he had a big game rushing against Duke but didn't shred them like he has with other teams. But Duke Johnson is an incredible talent that can make something out of nothing, so I think you basically just hope to put Miami in positions where they feel like they have to go elsewhere with the football, or at least find a way to keep him out of the screen game. And you sure as hell punt away from him.
State Of The U: I haven't been able to see a lot of Duke's games this year, is there a part of the defense that is stronger than the others? Secondary, defensive line perhaps?
Ben Swain: The defensive line has done a good job picking up sacks this season, but they haven't been at stopping the run at all. Duke's secondary is incredibly thin heading into the Miami game, and I really think the Devils will just need to try to outscore the Canes.
State Of The U: The offense seems to be based mainly around Connor Vernon. If we are somehow lucky enough to keep him as bottled up as possible, where do the other threats on offense come from?
Ben Swain: Statistically, Vernon is the 2nd best receiver on the team with sophomore Jamison Crowder being the top option. Senior Desmond Scott has had a solid year as the third receiver, and freshman Jela Duncan is the most talented running back. I expect Cutcliffe to pull out all the stops, so you'd also want to keep your eye on QB/TE/WR/FB Brandon Connette who is Duke's "trick play guy".
State Of The U: What's your feeling on the game being a 12:30 match-up? Influenced by the holiday, or a show of just how much people care?
Ben Swain: I think if Duke had held up their end of the bargain last Saturday then we'd be seeing this game in a more coveted time slot. The Blue Devils actually have a ton to play for, but it's not the kind of tangible prize that would bring a lot of interest from the casual fan like a Coastal Championship probably would have. I'm expecting the lowest attendance of the season on Saturday because I'm not expecting Miami fans to travel, and I think most Duke fans will be getting in their holiday vacation this weekend so they can go to the bowl game between Christmas and New Year's. I'm almost glad it will be a 12:30 game on regional television because I'm bracing myself to be embarrassed by the turnout.
State Of The U: BONUS QUESTION: Apropos of nothing, how do you see the Canes/Duke basketball series going this season?
Ben Swain: Nobody at Duke cares about basketball anymore.