Nov. 16, 3:30, ESPN2
Why You Should Give A Hoot: It's mid-November and Wallace Wade Stadium is the site of a pivotal Coastal Division clash. Yeah, David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job in Durham.
Four Coastal teams have two league losses, and Miami and Duke comprise half of them. The Blue Devils have been this year's biggest ACC surprise, winning the last five games, including a statement upset of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Oct. 26. They're bowl-eligible for a second straight year, but the days of being content with a postseason bid are gradually fading away. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are headed in the opposite direction, drifting to the back of the Top 25 with consecutive losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech. There's no shame in losing at Doak Campbell Stadium, but warning flags went up following last week's home loss to the Hokies. If the ‘Canes are going to rescue this season, it'll have to happen this Saturday in North Carolina.
Why Miami Might Win: The records are the same, but there's still a talent gap between these two programs. The ‘Canes are bigger, stronger and faster than the Blue Devils. They also boast the better quarterback in Stephen Morris. Duke has been winning in spite of the play of its quarterbacks, Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette, the error-prone caretakers of a passing game that's produced no touchdown passes and seven picks in the last two games. CB Tracy Howard and S Rayshawn Jenkins lead an opportunistic D that's No. 19 nationally in takeaways.
Why Duke Might Win: The Blue Devils have learned how to win close games, often getting timely plays from the defense and special teams. The D hasn't played a bad game in a month, thriving off big plays from stalwart DE Kenny Anunike, linebackers David Helton and Kelby Brown and S Jeremy Cash, an Ohio State transfer. Miami has been erratic on offense lately, and missed injured RB Duke Johnson last week. The Hurricanes' production has dipped considerably over the last four games, with the team averaging just 22 points over that time.
Who To Watch Out For: Duke is spawning another thief on defense, S Devon Edwards. The redshirt freshman authored one of the greatest individual efforts in program history last week, scoring three times, twice on pick-sixes and once on a 100-yard kickoff return.
- What happened to the Miami secondary last week? The unit that had played so well throughout the year provided the backdrop for Logan Thomas' best game of 2013, giving up 366 yards and an 80% completion mark.
- It'll be interesting to see how David Cutcliffe uses Connette and Boone this weekend. Both will play, but the number of reps they receive will be dictated by whoever has the hotter hand as the game progresses.
What Will Happen: Miami has better all-around talent, but Duke is playing with more confidence and a certain hard-to-define magic these days. The intangibles, turnover margin and an unusually involved November home crowd will help carry the Blue Devils to their sixth win in a row to keep alive hopes for a Coastal Division crown. Miami has lost its way, a trend that'll continue in Durham.
Prediction: Duke 29 … Miami 26
Line: Miami -3 o/u: 61.5