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Summer Scheming ‘21: Duke Blue Devils

Miami’s “rivalry week” game is against the Duke Blue Devils. It’ll be a cold day in Durham, can Miami show up prepared?

NCAA Football: ACC Kickoff Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

David Cutcliffe took the Duke Blue Devils on a ride of epic proportions. Duke, a perennial bottom dweller since Steve Spurrier left Durham for Gainesville in the early 90’s, won 27 games over three seasons from 2013-2015, including Duke’s first bowl win since 1960.

However, The Devils have fallen on hard times with improved UVA and UNC squads in the Coastal. Duke has won 28 games over the last five seasons, but has finished 2-0 in bowls. However, the 2020 COVID season was a rough one on Coach Cut and his Devils. Duke looked uninspired, unathletic, and flat out done.

Info: Miami @ Duke in Durham, NC

Day/Time/Channel: November 27, 2021 / TBD / TBD

In what could be Coach Cut’s retirement run, can the Devils bounce back from a 2-9 season? They’ll have a new starting quarterback behind center, but they’ll also have to replace their defensive stars. They have a legit running back weapon, but they also played uninspired football a year ago.

Miami is 14-4 against the Blue Devils all-time in the series. After not having lost to Duke since the 1979 season, Miami dropped games against the Devils in 2013, 2018 and 2019. The 2020 contest was a blowout for Miami as a 48-0 shutout in Durham.

2020 Record/Ranking: 2-9/Unranked.

2020 Data: 24.8 PPG scored (92nd in FBS), 38.1PPG allowed (116th in FBS).

Bowl Game: None.


Key Losses: Chase Brice, QB; Chris Rumph, DL; Michael Carter II, DB; Victor Dimukeje, DL; Noah Gray, TE; Deon Jackson, RB.

The Duke Blue Devils return 10 of 22 starters on the offense and defense from the 2020 season. That might actually be a good thing for Coach Cutcliffe and his staff. Sometimes after two rough seasons in a row it’s good to reload with new faces and new attitudes.

The Devils only have two players on the Athlon Magazine preseason All-ACC squad. Running back Mateo Durant is on the second team offense. As a backup in ‘20, Durant rushed for over 800 yards while also scoring nine times from scrimmage last season. He split duty with Jackson but was clearly the more explosive back, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

Linebacker Shaka Heyward made the fourth team defense. In ‘20, Heyward was clearly a star in ‘20 finishing the season with 79 tackles, 8.5 TFL’s, and thee sacks. Where Rumph and Dimukeje had disappointing seasons for Duke, Heyward shined in their place.

However, there are plenty of Devils to watch for in ‘21. DB Jeremiah Lewis, LT Graham Barton, LB Rocky Shelton and PK Charlie Ham are all potential All-ACC players this season. Last year, Lewis recorded seven PBU’s and two interceptions in a deep cornerback room. Shelton logged 35 tackles in ‘20, while Ham finished 13-of-15 on field goals.

Duke Scheme on O

Gunnar Holmberg looks to be the Devils starting QB in ‘21. Holmberg backed up Brice in ‘20 after missing the 2019 season with a knee injury. Brice transferred to Appalachian State in the off-season, where he’s trying to win the starting job after throwing 15 interceptions last year.

Duke runs a standard 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) grouping like most of the NFL and NCAA, as you’ve read many times in these previews. Where Cutcliffe was more cutting edge during the 27 game three year streak, he’s now faded into the middle and that’s not good for a less-talented squad like Duke.

How do you lose to the Duke offense? Duke should focus on their run game in ‘21. Durant is an explosive running back and the Devils lack the deep threats to beat you on explosive plays. Duke needs to revamp their S&C program and develop more speed. For every Durant, there is Jake Bobo and Jalon Clahoun who averaged 11.2 and 8.9 yards per catch, respectively. If Miami struggles to stop the run again in ‘21, Duke could pound the ‘Canes for a few tough drives on the ground.

How do you beat the Duke offense? Focus on shutting down Durant and the run game and make Holmberg and the non-explosive receivers beat you down field. Duke’s O-Line was Swiss cheese versus Miami in ‘20, the longer the plays take to develop, the easier it will be for Miami to come away with a sack.

Duke Scheme on D

Duke runs a standard 4-2-5 defense. However, the Devils looked horrible in many facets on defense in ‘20. Duke would get lined up, but then their assignment football was lacking. The front six didn’t seem to communicate. Heyward was the only player in the front six consistently making pays.

How do you lose to the Duke defense? I’m not sure in ‘20 there was a way to. They gave up over five TD’s a game. Their offense and its turnover woes didn’t help that, either. But the Duke defense had no heart a year ago. For Duke’s sake, let’s hope they get some fire from younger players on the defensive line.

How do you beat the Duke defense? Run the football. In ‘20, Duke did a terrible job of rotating safeties down in the run game, and the defensive line was no assistance for the linebackers. I would assume with four new DL in things may change, but Duke has a lot of work to do on the align, assign and finish mantra in order to be even a bad defense in ‘21.

Canyonero keys to victory

1- Run the football. Miami should dominate Duke upfront and if they can’t that say more about the S&C program and O-Line coaching than it does the running backs. Cam’ron Harris, Don Chaney and Jaylan Knighton are too talented to not have a 1,000 yard rusher in 2021.

2- Stop the run. Miami isn’t exactly innocent vs. the run game, either. The ‘Canes need to also work on align, assign and finish. Miami needs to work on safety rotations, too. Stop Durant and Duke is another 30+ point victory for The U heading into the ACC Championship Game.

3- Play your game. Show up ready to play and dominate the Devils. It’ll be a cold weekend in Durham in late November. Come ready to play and play your game. Miami can’t suffer another loss to an unranked, lesser opponent, like in 2017 against Pitt. “Do your job!”

Way too early prediction: Miami by 20.