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Duke vs. Miami: What to Watch for

#6 - Shaquille Powell tells Miami who really is #1 in the ACC
#6 – Shaquille Powell tells Miami who really is #1 in the ACC

When: Saturday September 27, 2014. 7:30 pm

Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

Television: ESPN2

Line: Duke +6.5

All Time Series: Miami leads 9-2

Last Time: Duke 48 – (24) Miami 30. November 16, 2013.  Duke went down 10-0 just over 5 minutes into the game, but quickly turned the game around.  Brandon Connette had 4 of Duke’s 5 rushing touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass, as well.  Duke ran all over Miami ending up with 358 total rushing yards and a team average of 6.9 yards per carry.  Josh Snead had 138 yards on 9 carries and Shaquille Powell ran for 59 yards to go with 1 rushing and 1 receiving touchdown.  Miami became the second ranked opponent to fall to Duke in 2013.

 

What to Watch for:

1.  Blue Devil Rushing Attack: The main constant in David Cutcliffe’s offenses over the years is a prolific passing attack and that has been the case since he began his time in Durham, as well.  However, this season the biggest strength of the Blue Devils offense may be their dynamic stable of running backs.  Josh Snead, Shaquille Powell, Shaun Wilson, and Joseph Ajeigbe all average over 4 yards per carry, with the true freshman Wilson leading the nation with an astonishing 14.4 ypc average.  As a team the Blue Devils are averaging 261 yards per game on the ground.  In last season’s victory over the Hurricanes Duke’s rushing attack proved to be too much for the Miami defense.  Duke may be without the “new phantom,” backup quarterback and short yardage runner Thomas Sirk is nursing a muscle strain.  The coaching staff may alter their game plan slightly, but they are confident in quarterback Parker Boehme to fill that role as needed.  Its worth noting that Anthony Boone has been running the ball very well so far this season, especially in zone read plays.  So far this season Boone has 89 yards and 3 touchdowns on 19 carries.  After four games the Miami defense appears to have tightened things up against the run.  Their defense is only allowing 3.3 yards per carry, but in last week’s game against Nebraska the Canes gave up 343 yards on the ground.  While Duke doesn’t have a punishing runner like Ameer Abdullah, their current stable of backs has proven capable of wearing down defenses.

2.  Johnson & Kayaa vs. Duke Defense:  The Miami offense begins with running back Duke Johnson.  When healthy, Johnson is one of the most dynamic backs in the nation.  David Cutcliffe said has much during the weekly ACC Teleconference:

“He is great. He is a special football player. He’s a fierce, fierce competitor with good strength and speed. In my opinion, he’s a first round draft choice.”

Duke had the luxury of facing the Hurricanes with Johnson last year.  That won’t be the case this season.  The Duke defense has struggled at times to contain the run so far this season and will be without defensive end Dezmond Johnson for the second straight game.  It will take a great group effort to keep Duke Johnson in check.  I would not be surprised if Duke lined up safety Jeremy Cash as a “spy” on Johnson for the entire game.  Cash’s biggest strengths are his instincts and tackling, two traits that are critical for slowing down Duke Johnson.  Freshman quarterback Brad Kayaa became the Hurricanes starter by default after injuries and suspensions began to add up, but the young signal caller has progressed well so far in 2014.  After an inconsistent start to the season, Kayaa has rebounded and topped 300 passing yards in each of the last two games.  He has also thrown 10 touchdown passes.  The freshman is still prone to mistakes, as most young quarterbacks are.  He has 7 interceptions through 4 games.  The Blue Devils secondary has proven to be very tough in the early part of the season, but they are also a bit untested.  The Duke defense has 5 interceptions already and will look to continue their opportunistic play.  Any help in slowing the run and forcing Kayaa into 3rd and long will increase the chance for mistakes for the Duke secondary to capitalize on.

3.  No More “Preseason”: The Blue Devils have made it through the non-conference portion of their schedule unscathed.  Duke sits at 4-0 heading into ACC play and have been dominant even at times when they haven’t played at the level they are capable of.  That will change this weekend.  Miami comes into the game with a 2-2 record.  Their two losses came at the hands of ACC newcomer Louisville and 23rd ranked Nebraska.  While the Hurricanes have plenty of question marks at this point in the season they are by far the toughest opponent Duke has faced in 2014.  Miami will prove to be a good measuring stick for the Blue Devils who have been very impressive against overmatched competition.  As good as Duke has looked so far there are still plenty of skeptics who don’t think the Blue Devils have what it takes to defend their Coastal Division championship.  Saturday will be the first chance this season for Cutcliffe & Co. to show they are still legitimate contenders.