The Miami Hurricanes , 4-3 (1-2) stumble into Wallace Wade stadium this Saturday night for a Halloween clash with the now bowl eligible Blue Devils 6-1 (3-0). Duke is only 2-10 all-time against the Hurricanes with one of those wins coming just 2 years ago (the last time these teams met in Durham); Duke won 48-30.
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Miami is coming off the worst loss in the history of their program: a 58-0 crushing at the hands of the undefeated Clemson Tigers, AT HOME. The aftermath saw nearly 5 year head coach, Al Golden, fired from his job after significant pressure all year from boosters and fans.
The Blue Devils conversely come back home fresh off their most impressive and thrilling win of the season, a 45-43 quadruple overtime win at Virginia Tech. The win was spearheaded by the outstanding play of redshirt junior quarterback Thomas Sirk who threw for 270 yards and 4 touchdowns, ran for 109 yards and had no turnovers and powered forward for the winning 2-point conversion to win the game.
Sirk’s performance led to his first ACC Player of the Week award being named the Offensive Back of the Week by the ACC. His continued improvement and confidence is proving head coach David Cutcliffe’s prophetic words last month when he predicted the offense and Sirk specifically would improve throughout the season.
Sirk spread the ball around effectively to 5 different receivers in last week’s game. This week he’ll have a healthier T.J. Rahming available although Chris Taylor and Trevon Lee remain out with lower body injuries.
Defensive standout Jeremy Cash continues to ravage opposing offenses totaling 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack against the Hokies. Expect him to continue his onslaught with outstanding support from DeVon Edwards and Deondre Singleton in the backfield who had 15 and 12 total tackles respectively last week. (and Singleton made what would become the game saving deflection on Virginia Tech’s final 2 point try) Duke will still miss the services of linebacker Kyler Brown out for the second consecutive game with a leg injury.
Miami will be hindered by a concussion suffered last week by ACC passing yards leader, Brad Kaaya. The latest reports are that Kaaya will not even travel with the team to Durham. In his place will be redshirt freshman Malik Rosier. Rosier is a 6’1", 212 lb., pocket passer who has seen very limited in-game action. He’s played in only 2 games this season, going 2 for 6 for 24 yards and one Miami insider, Scott Overby says he’s certainly "not ready as a quarterback for this spot," and remains "a better baseball player than football player at this point."
Kaaya’s injury will shift the pressure offensively for Miami to their running game which features sophomore running back Joseph Yearby. Yearby has gained 559 yards on 105 attempts this season averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 5 total touchdowns. He is currently ranked 7th in the ACC in rushing yards only 4 spots ahead of Duke’s leading rusher, Thomas Sirk. (Duke’s balanced running game also sees Shaquille Powell and Shaun Wilson in the top 20 of the ACC’s top rushers.) Freshman Mark Walton is Miami’s 2nd leading rusher with less than half of Yearby’s total yards but an equal 5 touchdowns on the ground. Both running backs can run and catch as both have yards rushing and receiving on the year and Yearby scoring 2 touchdowns as a receiver.
The Hurricanes will lean on their playmakers at receiver to carry them through. Both Rashawn Scott and Herb Waters are ranked in the ACC’s top 10 receivers (#3 and #9, respectively) with Waters averaging 17.2 yards per catch. Both possess the breakaway speed after the catch that could give the Blue Devils trouble.
On defense the Hurricanes are giving up nearly 29 points per game and over 400+ yards per game (similar to the Blue Devils), with the majority of those yards coming by way of the pass. Ironically, Miami leads the ACC in interceptions with 11 on the season. One could infer from these statistics that the Miami defensive backs aren’t afraid to take risks in their passing defense. Look for a lot of potential route jumping come Saturday as Miami will feel athletically superior to the Blue Devils.
It’s hard to predict what to expect from Miami in this game with the coaching turnover, the major blow of having their ACC leading quarterback out with injury, and the thorough drubbing they experienced against Clemson. Miami is loaded with talent and athletic playmakers however so they cannot be taken lightly in any sense. Miami will look to regain some respect following last week’s disaster and if Rosier is able to get the football to his playmakers it could be a long day for the Blue Devils.
Duke, conversely, is riding high after their win at Virginia Tech and looking to add to their bowl resume’ and stay undefeated in the Coastal Division; potentially setting up a showdown with undefeated UNC next week with sole possession of first place on the line. The pressure will be on Sirk to show his statistics and resolve from last week were not a fluke. He will be passing into a heavily athletic secondary and if he can replicate the zero turnover performance from last week the Blue Devils will keep on marching undefeated in conference play.
The Vegas line opened with Duke a 7 point favorite and the line has moved and currently sits with Duke a 13 point favorite. I expect the line shift is due to the public’s gobbling up of the coaching change (instability) and Kayaa’s injury. While I like Duke to win this game, I think the 7 point spread is much more realistic. Duke 26, Miami 17.