First Look: Duke v. Miami

The Blue Devils need a remedy to turn around a season that was filled with promise at the start. Four consecutive losses are tough to digest, and the Blue Devils will come off an open week with a game against Miami, which could be seething after a loss to Florida State.

But for Duke, this is more of an opportunity than a danger situation. The Blue Devils need a breakthrough and a way to get it is to tangle with a team that has been in the national rankings.

If the Blue Devils are going to rebound to reach a bowl game for the first time since 1994, they'll need to pull off some upsets. Given the circumstances and the extra time to prepare, this matchup against Miami might be ideal.

That is debatable, of course, and with a defense that is vulnerable against various types of offense it will be difficult for the Blue Devils to keep Miami's point total within reach.

Coach David Cutcliffe mostly has been embraced by Duke supporters. But if the season ends in a freefall, some of that will erode. With a 1-4 record through the part of the schedule that was considered easier than the back half, the Blue Devils have lots of work to do.

--Even after allowing a season-low point total in its last outing when Maryland scored 21 points, Duke is giving up nearly 40 points per game. That's the highest total allowed in the ACC.

--The Blue Devils will play four of their remaining six ACC games at home. They're 0-2 in the league, with both losses against Atlantic Division foes. Duke is one of four teams in the ACC without a league victory, and the Blue Devils will play two of those teams (Boston College, Virginia) later in the season.

SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads Duke, 6-1 (last meeting, 2009, 34-16 Miami)

The Blue Devils might have seen some holes in the Miami defense after watching what Florida State did to the Hurricanes, but there are no guarantees that Duke has the type of talent to repeat that. The Blue Devils have had time to tweak things and get QB Sean Renfree back to the level of sharpness that he showed in the first couple of weeks in the season. There's a chance that TE Brett Huffman could be back after missing three games with a knee injury and his presence could be a boost to the offense.

The Blue Devils have been better the past six quarters after a miserable start to the season. They continue to need more production from linebackers and their secondary will be tested on a regular basis until shortcomings in that area are corrected. Miami might have more speed to contend with than some of Duke's other opponents so there could be an adjustment period in this game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got to commit ourselves to it." -- Coach David Cutcliffe, on the importance of establishing a rushing offense. Duke has been outgained on the ground by an average of 208 yards to 125 yards per game.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Miami at Duke, Oct. 16 -- Duke is coming off an open weekend and they'll hope to catch Miami licking its wounds after a home loss to Florida State. The Blue Devils gained some confidence a year ago by sticking with Miami for most of the game in a road loss, so that's something that could carry into this matchup.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Duke will need to take advantage of its opportunities after failing to convert in some situations during the past couple of games. The Blue Devils also need to tidy up their special teams coverages because they've been hurt in that area, and Miami has the type of speed and athleticism that could expose Duke, which played its last two games against Army and Maryland.

WR Donovan Varner -- He has reached the 100-yard receiving mark twice this season and his production is important to the offense. He can take pressure off WR Conner Vernon if they're both clicking.

RB Josh Snead -- He has taken turns in the backfield, but the true freshman has been more noticeable on kick returns, where he might be ready to break one off for a score.

K Will Snyderwine -- He connected on three field goals against Maryland and his consistency is crucial to the Blue Devils, whose offense hasn't been able to complete drives in the red zone. He has made 9 of 10 field-goal attempts.

--S Matt Daniels is second on the roster with 34 tackles, but he has been vital in helping with run support. He leads the Blue Devils with 3.5 tackles for loss.

--C Bryan Morgan is regularly lauded for his off-field endeavors and he continues to provide a positive reputation for the team with some community outreach endeavors.

--TE Brett Huffman might be ready to return to action after missing three games with a knee injury. He had been considered one of the staples of the offense entering the season and his blocking might aid the offense.

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