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Miami Hurricanes Matchup Preview: Duke Blue Devils

Will the Devils spoil the homecoming celebration at Hard Rock on Saturday?

NCAA Football: Duke at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After playing on the road over the course of three weeks, the Hurricanes return to the confines of Hard Rock Stadium this week. While the reaction the team receives from the hometown crowd remains to be seen, the Canes hope to curb their current two game skid in conference play.

In the past, a game against Duke would have been the ideal antidote to help heal what ails the team. The Hurricanes enter the week having won four consecutive games against the school based in Durham, North Carolina. They won last year’s matchup 31-6. That game feels like a lifetime ago, as the Hurricanes are a shell of their former selves. In a season that has begun to fade into despair, a win in front of the home crowd is desperately needed.

Iron Sharpens Iron (One vs One)

Duke WR TJ Rahming vs Miami CB Michael Jackson

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The best receiving option for Duke on any given day is WR TJ Rahming. The 5’10” senior has led all Duke receivers over the past two seasons, and currently leads the team with 39 receptions and six touchdowns through eight games. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe tries to manufacture touches for the star wideout in each outing, be it on swings, screens, deep shots or, in the case of two weeks ago, have Rahming pass for a TD. With a competent quarterback providing excellent ball placement and completions on his throws, Rahming could add to his 16 receiving plays of 10 or more yards Saturday evening.

At this point in the year, Hurricanes’ CB Michael Jackson has gone to battle against all types of foe. The 6’1” DB has had passing options blessed with top-end speed, above-average route running or a blend of all the above. Jackson should be familiar with Rahming after last year’s matchup. The Duke WR was held to 27 receiving yards on two receptions. With Rahming being moved around the formation prior to the snap, it’s possible that Jackson won’t see extensive snaps lined up from No. 3. However, it would be the game within in the game that we’d like to see more often than not.

Positional Matchup of the Week

Miami’s Running Game vs Duke’s Front-Seven

When the passing game can’t get going, the responsibility to ignite the Hurricane offense falls on the shoulders of the Miami’s runners. Or to be more accurate, the legs of the running backs. Both Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas have combine to rush for 992 yards to date. The Hurricanes’ rushing offense is ranked eighth in the conference, despite the turmoil along the offensive live. As most familiar with the game will preach, your running game is only as good as the personnel who block for the running back. Of course, you can count on a few yards here and there from whichever Miami QB they decide to go with in this contest. If Miami finds success running the ball on Duke, it won’t be because the Blue Devils are an afterthought. It will be because the Hurricanes won the battle at the line of scrimmage.

Duke v Virginia Tech
A Bednarik Award watch list member, LB Joe Giles-Harris is one of a few different makers for the Blue Devil defense.
Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

It seems as if it’s been forever since Duke was the punchline when it came to ACC Football. Those days are gone, replaced by a top five defense in the conference this season. The Blue Devils give up 23.5 points-per-game and have surrendered 24 touchdowns in eight games. Duke gives up 188 rushing yards a game and have gained nine turnovers this season. This a fundamentally sound defense, well at least it was until they gave up 54 points to Pitt last weekend. The group is led by a pair of dynamic linebackers at the second level. Junior LB Joe Giles-Harris was a preseason Bednarik Award candidate and All-ACC First Team. He certainly lived up to the praise to the tune of 69 tackles, 5.5 TFL, two pass breakups and 0.5 sacks. That follows up a 2017 that witnessed the junior secure 125 tackles and 16 TFL. Senior Ben Humphreys serves as a missile at middle linebacker, seeking and obliterating ball carriers that blip on his radar. Humphreys is at his best when shooting through a gap and pursuing plays behind the line of scrimmage. The senior also possess decent range from hashmark-to-hashmark when chase stretch plays.

Caneseye Players to Watch

Daniel Jones

NCAA Football: Virginia at Duke
Projected by some draft analysts to be a high pick in 2019 NFL Draft, Duke QB Daniel Jones will attempt to make the Canes a feature in his highlight reel Saturday night.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In his previous two matches with the Hurricanes, junior QB Daniel Jones has been unable to lead the Blue Devils past the Hurricanes. In 2016, Jones passed for 316 yards, three touchdowns and rushing for 15 yards and his team still lost 40-21. In 2017, the passing game struggled, as Jones completed 50% of his attempts, amounting to 166 passing yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT in their 31-6 loss to UM. In his third game against Manny Diaz’s defense, Jones is assuredly going to display all of his arsenal. One of two active FBS passers to surpass 5,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing, Jones has a big arm to get the ball down the field. Just as lethal, Jones is a dynamic runner. When he decides to tuck the ball and take off, he has the ability to pick up a first down in a hiccup. The priority for the Canes this week will be containing Jones.

QB Malik Rosier

Three years ago, Rosier filled in for an injured QB Brad Kaaya when the Hurricanes travelled to take on Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium. Rosier completed 20 of his 29 pass attempts, for 272 yards, two touchdowns and a lone interception in 2015. Miami went on to win the game because of a miraculous kick return for a TD, but Rosier was decent in a spot start.

However, this week, decent is not going to cut it. In their last two games, Rosier has thrown three interceptions to just a single touchdown. Everyone knows that if you leave some space underneath that Rosier will use his legs to pick up what he can on the ground. Miami will need the arm of Malik Rosier to put the team back in the win column this week. In the 2017 game against Duke, Rosier completed 15 of his 26 pass attempts for 270 yards for two TDs and one pick. What we’re saying is Rosier should be good for his usual two passing TDs and one interception against Duke in the 2018 edition.

RB Deon Jackson

While Jackson’s mother was an All-American Track Star at the University of Miami, Deon Jackson’s path to college took him to Durham, North Carolina. Duke’s offensive line has been paving a path that has allowed Jackson to lead the Blue Devils with 534 rushing yards and 5.29 yards-per-carry. A RB that runs fairly high when he hits the hole, Jackson is more of a patient runner who lets his blocks setup before planting his foot and squirming through the line of scrimmage. Jackson has 10 receptions for 157 receiving yards.

WR Johnathan Lloyd

As we mentioned earlier in this article, TJ Rahming is considered the number one passing option for QB Daniel Jones. That point still stands, yet should not overshadow the man on the other side of the field. Senior wideout Jonathan Lloyd is the go-to target for Jones on deep passing plays, leading Duke pass catchers with 13.75 YPC.

LB Shaq Quarterman

Miami v Boston College Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With the threat of Duke QB Daniel Jones rushing on designed plays and taking off on scrambles, it will be up to the Hurricanes front-seven to limit the damage from Jones as a runner. If there’s been an achilles heel for Miami’s defense, it’s been there susceptibility against mobile quarterbacks. Last week, Boston College QB Anthony Brown rushed for 41 yards, a touchdown and had 5.9 YPC. Virginia’s Bryce Perkins gained 32 yards on four carries, yet did just enough to keep Miami’s defense on the field. UNC QB Chazz Surratt rushed for 69 yards, a TD and 7.7 YPC. The difference this week is that Jones has a better arm than anyone Miami has played to date.

The responsibility doesn’t solely fall on the shoulders of Shaq Quarterman, but the expectation that he should be able to discourage Jones from running wild is fairly high. Quarterman is currently second on the team with 47 tackles, with 10 of those counting towards TFLs. No.55 should be a feature in this contest as the Hurricanes hope to get back on a winning note.

One Last Thing

Miami is 13-2 against Duke all-time, with the Hurricanes winning the last four years by an average of 14.5 points.

After the announcement on Wednesday that TE Will Mallory will miss Saturday’s game due to an eye infection, the Hurricanes are now down to one scholarship tight end, Brevin Jordan. RS Sophomore TE Nicholas Ducheine is the only player left at the position and could see time this week. He last played against Savannah State according to the team website.