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Miami Hurricanes Football: Game Preview for Week 5 at Duke

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Mark Richt will pay his first visit as Miami’s head coach to Wallace Wade Stadium

NCAA Football: Toledo at Miami
Mark Walton will look to leap into the endzone a few times tomorrow night in Durham, NC
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for No. 14 Miami (2-0) to meet with the Blue Devils (4-0) for the 2017 edition of this sure-to-be entertaining contest.

Match-Up Background

  • Miami leads the all-time series against Duke 12-2 with the most recent win coming last season at home
  • The last time Duke got the better of the Canes was in 2013 in Durham which was also the year Duke won the ACC Coastal Division
  • Duke has 15 players from the state of Florida, 6 of which hail from South Florida
  • Before the start of this season, QB Malik Rosier’s only college start was against Duke, in the 2015, 30-27 win (20-29, 272 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT)
  • Last year, Duke QB Daniel Jones went 34-50 for 316 yards and 3 TD’s

Duke Stats Leaders

  • Passing: RSo. Daniel Jones, 86-139 (62%), 904 YDS, 5 TD, 2 INT
  • Rushing: Sr. Shaun Wilson, 59 carries for 349 YDS (5.9 yards per carry)
  • Receiving: Jr. TJ Rahming, 24 receptions for 248 YDS
  • Tackles: RSo. Joe Giles-Harris, 34 tackles, 6 TFL (2 sacks)

Preview

Duke is fresh off of a 27-17 win against rival North Carolina as they moved to a 4-0 mark after previously beating North Carolina Central, Northwestern, and Baylor. While none of Duke’s opponents thus far have been heavyweights, they have still faced 3 Power Five teams and are undefeated against them. Miami, on the other hand, is still trying to get something going after coming off of a tough game against Toledo. Duke will be ready. So will Miami.

It is no secret that one of Miami’s biggest weaknesses through the first two games has been the secondary, and more specifically their coverage. Dee Delaney, who was expected to come in and be an All-ACC DB right off the bat, has struggled mightily. Just as Bethune Cookman and Toledo took advantage of this, so will Duke. Daniel Jones is one of the best QB’s in the ACC despite his rather mediocre start to this year. Additionally, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is one of the best at game-planing big games in the business (last year Duke went just 4-8 but played at Louisville with a chance to win late in the game).

NCAA Football: Duke at North Carolina
Duke’s QB Daniel Jones is underrated as a scrambler
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Under Cutcliffe, Duke has been far more proficient over the air than on the ground, but this year has been different. Senior Shaun Wilson and redshirt freshman Brittain Brown have been very solid on the ground for the Blue Devils through the first third of the season. Duke will rotate three RB’s (the third is true freshman Deon Jackson) and they all have big-run potential. If Miami’s front seven comes to play like they are capable, Duke will have to resort to a passing game that has been inconsistent so far.

Junior TJ Rahming returns to start in the slot for Duke after amassing 1,313 yards over his first two seasons. He is incredibly shifty and will keep any DB on their toes. There were possessions in last years game at Notre Dame where three straight throws went to Rahming on quick slant routes over the middle, about 5 to 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. For Miami, despite his quickness, the best bet is to jam him at the line because over his career he has not been a very big deep threat. If you give him a cushion and he gets the ball in the open field, he is hard to stop.

Outside of Rahming, Duke has a lot of solid pass-catchers but no one that really scares you. WR Aaron Young is also a name to know. He’s a bigger guy at about 6’2 and he’s used a lot on fade routes in the red zone.

On defense, Duke has been unprecedentedly solid in 2017. Statistically, they have one of the best run defenses in the nation and a 14% third down conversion percentage, good for #1 in the country. It will be key for Miami to convert on third downs and wear this Duke defense down.

With Ben Albert as the new defensive line coach at Duke, the results have already been seen on that end. Senior DT Mike Ramsay is a beast on the inside and can be a sack-machine. Freshman DE’s Victor Dimukeje and Drew Jordan are also staunch pass rushers. Duke is tied for 4th in the country with 15 sacks through 4 games.

Duke’s defense is stingy, but not dominant. Senior CB Bryon Fields already has two pick-sixes and junior LB Ben Humphreys has another. If Duke has to stay on the field past one set of downs, they become much more beatable. They will contain you for a bit but are very susceptible to big plays. This is why I expect Mark Walton to have a huge game. He may have two plays where he gains a yard, but the third could go for 70 and a TD.

NCAA Football: Bethune Cookman at Miami
RB Mark Walton has been nearly unstoppable this season
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It will also be interesting to see Ahmmon Richards back on the field. There are sure to be some cobwebs to shake as this will be his first game of the year, but he should be big-time. If he plays somewhat like he played last year in this game, Duke does not have anybody that can cover him in man coverage. Lawrence Cager should also be a big factor with his big frame. Duke’s DB’s are extremely aggressive, but that is also what comes back to bite them at times.

Let’s face it, Miami has not performed at a high-level in either of the first two games. The first half of the Toledo game was a wave of emotions that Miami fans should never have to feel again. With that said, Miami won both of those games and neither was close when the final whistle blew. I expect this game to be a bit similar, but with Miami more in tune.

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami
Miami fans expect the triumphant return of star WR Ahmmon Richards at Duke
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Devils will not quit and will put up a good fight, but I feel this is the game that jump starts a run of very good play for Miami. I will say this though, if Miami even plays just a half of what they showed during the first 30 minutes of last Saturday, they will lose. Duke is better than Toledo, will be playing in front of an excited crowd on a Friday night, and has a terrific coach.

As Friday night goes on, the key will be on third down for both squads. Get off the field while on defense and extend drives on offense. If Miami tires out that Duke defense, this will be a very good win to start conference play. Miami’s front seven has to come out focused and ready to hit while all of the team has to be disciplined. The penalties thus far have been agonizing and with a higher stakes game, Miami will pay more for mistakes.

Miami needs to get off to a fast start to put this game away. If they do not—and they let Duke hang around, this game could linger late into the 4th quarter and become a toss-up. Duke is a true contender in the Coastal and this is a big game for Miami. Forget about how bad Duke has been in the past. If Miami wins, this will be a good win, and there’s no shame in pointing that out.

Mark Richt should stay undefeated against Duke this Friday and while I don’t care to predict scores all that often, I’ll give you 30-21, Miami.

What say you, Canes fam? Let me know below.

It’s All About The U!