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Three things to watch: Duke

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Miami has a golden opportunity to knock off some rust prior to playing UNC next week

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke
Duke safety Michael Carter II (26) breaks up a pass instead for Miami’s Mike Harley (3) in Duke’s 2019 victory over Miami at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After an unexpected break thanks to issues related to COVID-19, the Miami Hurricanes are finally back in action tonight.

The Hurricanes will face ACC opponent Duke tonight at 8pm in Durham, North Carolina. As of Friday night, Miami was listed as a 15-point favorite in the game.

Duke (2-7, 1-7) has beaten the Hurricanes (7-1, 6-1) in back-to-back attempts but has struggled mightily this season in all three phases of the game.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you watch Miami go for its eighth win of the season.

Miami has a big advantage in the quarterback matchup

It is not breaking news that D’Eriq King is a great ACC quarterback. The graduate transfer from the University of Houston has turned Miami’s offense completely around this season and injected life into the Hurricanes’ program.

Duke has not been so lucky with its transfer quarterback.

Clemson transfer Chase Brice has just over a 53% completion percentage and is averaging about 222 yards passing per game. He has thrown 13 interceptions in nine games.

For comparison sake, King has just under a 64% completion percentage, is averaging about 261 yards passing per game, and has only thrown four interceptions this season. He also leads Miami with an average of almost 53 rushing yards per game.

State of The U contributor Roman Marciante broke down both quarterbacks earlier this week.

What does all of that mean? Miami has a huge advantage in the quarterback battle. With how King looked prior to the COVID-19 pause and Brice’s 2020 season as a whole, you could make an argument that Miami has not had a bigger advantage in the quarterback matchup all season.

But as we all know, the quarterbacks do not play each other head-to-head on the field. It will be the Miami defense’s job to ensure that Brice does not snap out of his season-long slump tonight.

Duke has allowed 33 sacks in nine games this year so that should leave plenty of opportunities for Jaelan Phillips and the rest of Miami’s pass rush to make Brice uncomfortable in the pocket on passing downs.

Miami must win the turnover battle

No team is worse this season than Duke when it comes to turnovers lost.

The Blue Devils have lost 30 turnovers in nine games this season. Yes, that’s an average of over three turnovers per game. That metric puts Duke dead last in the FBS in this category.

That should make fans of Miami’s turnover chain very happy.

Duke’s habit of turning the ball and its inability to effectively block on passing downs is the perfect recipe for Miami’s attacking defense to have a big day.

What does a big day mean exactly? I think it is reasonable to expect the Hurricanes to force multiple turnovers and hold the Blue Devils under their season average of 25.6 points per game (85th in the NCAA).

Coming through on my rather conservative prediction should result in a care-free victory for the Hurricanes.

Miami will need to ‘conquer the situation’ tonight

While Duke is having a subpar season, there are many factors at play in this game that have a chance to derail Miami almost as much as the Blue Devils do.

Head coach Manny Diaz told the media on Monday that the Hurricanes learned they would be playing Duke around the same time that fans did on Sunday night. That didn’t leave too much time for advanced scouting or game plan creation in this COVID-19 season.

Additionally, the Hurricanes still have a slew of unknowns related to COVID-19. Miami began practicing again on Monday but had players returning to the team all throughout the week. We really don’t know which players practiced this week and how many good reps the Hurricanes were able to get in.

Might there still be Hurricanes on the dreaded unavailability list? We will find out together tonight around 7pm. That could be another factor in play working against Miami.

On top of all of that, the weather forecast in Durham calls for low 40’s with a chance of rain. Traditionally, Miami has been less than stellar in cold weather games.

While none of those factors are make or break, together they can be enough to keep a good team from beating a subpar team on the road in December.

Miami needs to rise above the factors in its way and prove that it is a great team on its way to being an elite team again.

The Hurricanes can do that by conquering the obstacles standing in their way and thumping Duke tonight.