Duke at Miami
7:30 PM ET
Saturday, September 27
Miami Gardens, FL
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 108 and XM Ch 193
Duke in 2014: 3-0
Miami in 2014: 2-2
QUESTIONABLE – Thomas Sirk (QB)
OUT – Dan Beilinson (TE), Johnathan Lloyd (CB), Dezmond Johnson (DL), Trip McNiell (OL)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Braxton Deaver (TE), Taariq Shabazz (DE)
OUT – Rashawn Scott (WR), Alex Gall (OG), Matt Goudis (K)
OUT FOR SEASON – Rayshawn Jenkins (DB)
Duke opens ACC play with a trip to ACC Coastal Division rival Miami on Saturday night. The Blue Devils defeated the Hurricanes 48-30 in Durham last season, behind a rushing attack that ran for 358 yards. Miami still hold a convincing lead on the all-time series, having won 9 out of 11 games and 4 out of 5 in Miami.
HOW DUKE CAN WIN
It will take a complete effort of solid fundamental football for the Blue Devils to upset the Hurricanes for a second year in a row: a positive turnover margin, strong specials teams play, and physicality in the trenches. Miami’s freshman QB Brad Kaaya is an undisputable talent, but will be playing in just his second ACC game. While he has already set the school record for passing yards in a game (and has a good chance to break it against the Blue Devils this week), Kaaya has thrown an interception in each of his 4 starts, a total of 7 picks on the season. Duke’s “opportunistic” secondary must continue that streak and take advantage of poor reads, tipped passes, and overthrows. Of course, to win the turnover battle, the Blue Devils must take care of the football better than they did against Tulane in week 4. The Hurricanes have proven adept at stripping the football in the early season, coming up with 6 fumble recoveries, including two forced by senior LB Thurston Armbrister and junior DB Deon Bush.
A quick look at the injury report for the week shows that Miami will be without their veteran kicker Matt Goudis for the 3rd straight week. Freshman walk-on Michael Badgley will take over the kicking duties, and is thus far mostly untested, converting his one and only FG attempt in his career. With an explosive Miami offense, Duke must win the field position battle, forcing the Hurricanes to face a long field. Special teams miscues or turnovers that lead to a short field will result in easy points for this offense. The Blue Devils will expect another big day out of their veteran special teams units led by Will Monday and Ross Martin.
For those who saw the Blue Devils defeat the Hurricanes a year ago, the victory was the direct result of Duke dominating in the trenches. To win again, Duke must contain the Hurricanes’ senior-laden pass rush, led by DL Anthony Chickillo, LB Denzel Perryman, DL Ufomba Kamalu, and LB Thurston Armbrister. The Blue Devils’ offensive line will be bolstered by the expected return of Lucas Patrick, and will need to impose its will to protect Anthony Boone and open holes for their explosive running back stable. When facing a dangerous offense like the Hurricanes, the best defense can be a good offense – one that is able to consistently move the chains and find the end zone. Third down conversions will be critical.
Defensively, there is one apparent key to beating the Hurricanes this year – holding them to under 4.0 yards per carry. Of course, when the ball is in the hands of Duke Johnson, that’s easier said than done, but both Louisville and Nebraska were able to accomplish just that in defeating Miami. Slowing the Hurricanes through the air is just as challenging, with Kaaya able to spread the ball around amongst TE Clive Walford (3.75 catches per game), WR Phillip Dorsett (33 yards per catch!), and Raleigh native WR Braxton Berrios (3.5 catches per game). With Miami’s athletes, explosive plays are almost inevitable; Duke must find ways to make the stops necessary to force punts and field goals instead of touchdowns – bend but don’t break.
HOW MIAMI CAN WIN
For Miami to win this game, they must match the Blue Devils’ intensity for a full 60 minutes. They do not have to play mistake-free football, but they certainly must shore-up a defense that allowed 334 yards and 6.2 yards per carry a week ago at Nebraska. A strong effort from Chickillo and Kamalu will be needed to contain a Duke running game that ranks 21st in the country and features freshman sensation Shaun Wilson, averaging 14.4 yards per carry. Success against the run will force Anthony Boone into obvious passing situations, where he has been prone to errant and forced throws.
Offensively, this is all about putting the ball in the Hurricanes’ playmakers’ hands. Duke’s young secondary will have its hands full with Dorsett, Berrios, and Walford, leaving plenty of running room for the explosive Johnson. If Miami is able to turn explosive plays into touchdowns, it will be a long night for the Blue Devils.
WHY MIAMI WILL WIN
The Hurricanes, coming off a loss and with last year’s thumping fresh in their minds, will be hungry for a victory Saturday night. Expect a much improved effort from Miami defensively, disrupting the Duke offense and stalling drives. Miami will find ways to utilize their playmakers in space, creating mismatches against the young Blue Devil secondary. Dorsett and Johnson will each find the end zone, and the Hurricanes will win the turnover battle. Miami will look to get out to an early lead, forcing the Blue Devils to play from behind for much of the game. Duke will not go down without a fight, but the Hurricanes’ athletes will prove too much for the untested Blue Devils.
The weakness of the Blue Devils’ nonconference schedule will catch up to them as they face a tough ACC opener at Miami. Coach Cutcliffe will have his team ready to play, but the Blue Devils will struggle to execute consistently against an athletic and motivated Hurricane squad. Duke opens with an ACC loss, but remains very much alive in the wide-open Coastal Division.
Miami 42, Duke 31