Sept. 27, 7:30, ESPN2
Here's The Deal: In an ACC Coastal Division that probably won’t be decided until the final weekend of the regular, this is a key early matchup in the race. Duke is the defending divisional champ, and off to a clean start. But it hasn’t faced anyone tougher than Tulane. A second straight win over Miami, especially in South Florida, would speak to the Blue Devils’ staying power. The Hurricanes have dropped two games, most recently at Nebraska, and they’ve dropped a league game, so their margin for error is thinning.
Why Duke Might Win: David Cutcliffe plus a struggling Miami D should equal plenty of points Saturday night. Duke’s averaging 43 points, which is due partly to the competition and partly to balance and blocking. The Blue Devils have allowed just three sacks, while opening holes for a ground game averaging 6.4 yards per carry. And contributions are coming from all over—Anthony Boone to Jamison Crowder, Max McCaffrey and Issac Blakeney. And back-breaking runs from dynamite rookie RB Shaun Wilson and backup QB Thomas Sirk.
Why Miami Might Win: True freshman QB Brad Kaaya is growing up exponentially with each passing week. Kaaya is the key to a potentially high-powered attack averaging 38 points since the opener. As the game slows down for him, it makes Miami’s most explosive weapons, RB Duke Johnson, TE Clive Walford and WR Phillip Dorsett, markedly more dangerous. Duke is in for a rude awakening after beginning the season with a string of second-rate offensive attacks.
Who To Watch Out For: The Blue Devil D has looked good on paper, but will it continue on grass this weekend? Duke is allowing just 11.5 points per game, and DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, LB David Helton and pretty much the entire secondary has been getting the job done. Miami, though, presents unique challenges for its ability to stretch the field in all directions. If the Duke defense steps up here, go ahead and label this team the favorite to repeat as the Coastal champ.
What’s Going To Happen: This matchup, like so many others, will come down to coaching and quarterbacks, which gives an edge to the visitors. The collaboration of Cutcliffe and Boone, who’s yet to lose a regular season game, is ahead of Al Golden and Kaaya. Duke won’t roll the way it has in the first month, but it’s a veteran team playing well in all phases right now. And it’s not as if Sun Life Stadium gives the Canes a decided home-field edge. It’ll be entertaining, high-scoring and further evidence that Duke is here to stay.
Prediction: Duke 34 … Miami 30
Line: Miami -7 o/u: 60