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Duke vs. Miami Preview

Photo by Chris Summerville

When: Friday, September 29, 2017. 7:00 PM.

Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, North Carolina

Television: ESPN

Line: Duke +7

Last Time: Duke 21, Miami 40.  Duke closed the 2016 season with a trip to Miami Gardens.  The Blue Devils got off to a good start, particularly on defense before getting trounced in the second half.  The Blue Devils led the entire first half until a Miami field goal with less than a minute to go in the second quarter gave the Hurricanes a 16-14 lead at the half.  Daniel Jones had a good day statistically going 34/50 for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns, but the lack of a running game kept Duke from really threatening in the second half.  On the day the Blue Devils ended up with just 79 rushing yards on 26 carries.  TJ Rahming caught 10 passes for 117 yards in the loss.  Once Miami got going in the second half the Duke secondary struggled.  Brad Kayaa finished the game with 396 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 22 completions.  The loss dropped Duke to 4-8 on the year, ending any hopes of an APR exemption for a bowl game.

Game Preview: Duke’s 4-0 start to the season has come as a surprise to many in the college football world.  Not just the undefeated run to start the year, but how the Blue Devils are winning has been even more impressive.  Despite playing three Power 5 opponents so far, Duke has won all of their games by double digits and has dominated on defense for stretches.  However, the Blue Devils red zone offense and the fact that they continue to give up big plays still has some pumping the brakes on how good this team actually is.  Friday night will go a long way into determining where Duke fits, not only in the ACC, but in the national landscape as well.  The Miami Hurricanes come to Durham ranked 14th in the AP Poll, but due to Hurricane Irma they’ve only played two games so far this season, both against overmatched opponents in Bethune-Cookman and Toledo.  So while Miami will be Duke’s toughest opponent yet, the Blue Devils will be the Hurricanes’ first real test this season.

The matchup to watch will be Duke’s defensive front against Miami running back Mark Walton.  In two games Walton has already ran for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 27 carries.  He may be the most dangerous offensive player Duke faces this season.  Walton only had 60 yards on 13 carries against Duke last year, but that was partly due to the success the Hurricanes had in the passing game.  Through four games the Duke defense is holding opposing teams to just 2.7 yards per carry.  Defensive linemen Mike Ramsay and Tre Hornbuckle have lived in opposing backfields this season, combining for 11 tackles for a loss.  Linebackers Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys have added 6.0 and 4.5 tackles for a loss, respectively.  Not only is Duke getting good pressure up front, but they are, more often than not, beating opponents to the edge, which is critical in shutting down the run game.  Duke’s third down defense has been incredible, but against a team with a star at running back, their defense on first and second down will be just as important to try and keep Miami out of short yardage situations.

On offense, the key for Duke will be finishing drives.  Last week against UNC, the Blue Devils had the opportunity to effectively end the game in the first half, but instead of going into the break ahead 21-3, but Duke came up short on two drives and had a field goal blocked and went in to the half tied instead after the defense gave up a quick scoring drive.  Duke has gotten a lot of production from the run game and Daniel Jones has been good, but the offense isn’t quite where it needs to be for Duke to reach their full potential this season.  The Blue Devils have depth at the wide receiver position, but like last year the receivers are struggling to get separation from defenders.  Those struggles can be magnified in the red zone when the field is condensed.  With a still shaky kicking game, Duke needs touchdowns, especially against teams as good as Miami.  Miami’s passing defense hasn’t been stellar despite their opponents so far.  Opponents are completing over 60% of their passes for 286.5 yards per game.  The Blue Devils will need to remain balanced on offense, but their best chances on offense may come through the air.

All statistics provided by Sports-Reference.com