Duke (5-5) vs Miami (7-3)
Coral Gables, Fla. - Land Shark Stadium
TV: ESPNU / Kick-off: 12:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: ACC Nickname: Hurricanes Colors: Orange, Green, and White Head Coach: Randy Shannon (3rd Season) Career Record at Miami: 19-16
The Blue Devils trail the all-time series between the two schools 5-1. After losing the series' initial meeting, Miami has won five straight contests. The last two games have been extremely competitive with Miami winning 24-14 in 2007 and 49-31 in Wallace Wade last year.
What To Watch For On Offense:
Quarterback Jacory Harris completed a pass to 13 different receivers in Miami's win over Virginia on Nov. 7. Overall he completed 18-for-31 for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Harris ranks second in the ACC at 265.5 yards per game and fifth in passing efficiency. He's third in the league with 19 touchdowns. A three time ACC Player of the Week, Harris has surpassed the 2,000 yard passing mark - the first Hurricane to do that since 2005. When he's been given time, the sophomore has been very cool in the pocket, going through his progressions and spreading the ball amongst his numerous weapons. On the season he's found 16 different players for completions.
Another Cane coming off a big performance against the Cavaliers is junior running back Graig Cooper who logged career highs with 152 yards on 18 carries (8.4 ypc) in addition to scoring his third touchdown of the season. Those numbers were a bit inflated, however, as Cooper also had Miami's longest play from scrimmage this season - a 70 yard break away run. Heading into Saturday's game vs. Duke, Cooper leads the team in rushing (541) and all-purpose (1,152) yards. He ranks 48th in the country in all-purpose yards per game, averaging 128 per. He's building on a sophomore season in which he led the team in all-purpose yards with 1,133. Joining Cooper is Javarris James who has 430 yards on 79 attempts this season with 4 touchdowns. With 79 rushing attempts this season, senior James has moved from eighth place on Miami's all-time rush- ing attempts list to third. He also moved into the school's Top 10 in career rushing yards against Oklahoma and currently ranks sixth with 2,091 yards.
With Harris spreading the ball around the various receivers and running backs in the passing game, it's hard to find any one Hurricane to focus on defensively. The best best is likely Leonard Hankerson, who continued his streak of being the only Hurricane to have a catch in all 10 games this season against UVa. He leads Miami with 34 receptions for 602 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore LaRon Byrd has come on strong as the season has progressed. On the year, Byrd ranks second on the team in catches (28) and third in receiving yards (403). Sophomore wide receiver Travis Benjamin recorded Miami's longest pass play this season with a 69-yard touchdown reception. Dedrick Epps is another noteworthy target who needs just 10 more receiving yards to become the sixth Miami player with 200 receiving yards this season.
The offensive line will provide a stiff test for a Blue Devil defensive front that is likely without it's best player. Senior LT Jason Fox is a multiple ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week winner. On the other side, RT Pipho has been solid in his first career action as a starter. The fifth year senior who received his degree in Biology last spring, owns a 3.39 cumulative grade point average. He has started all 10 games for the Hurricanes at right tackle this season helping the Hurricanes rack up 4,053 yards of total offense. Senior center A.J. Trump mans the middle alongside junior guards Joel Figueroa and Orlando Franklin. As a unit the Miami offensive line averages 6-foot-6 and 314 pounds.
What To Watch For On Defense:
The front four for the Hurricanes is experienced as three juniors and a senior will line up across from Thaddeus Lewis and company. The outside is manned by Steven Welsey on the left and Allen Bailey on the right. At 6-4, 288, Bailey has played both defensive tackle and defensive end this season. Bailey, who finished with 24 tackles and a team-best five sacks in 2008, already has 27 tackles this season while leading the team in tackles for a loss (10.5) and sacks (7.0). He is tied for third in the ACC with a 0.70 sacks per game aver- age while also ranking fifth in the league in tackles for loss (1.05 pg). In the middle are senior Joe Joseph and junior Josh Holmes who have combined for 42 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, and 1.0 sack on the year.
Junior outside linebacker Colin McCarthy is the team's leading tackler with 78 on the season. He ranks seventh in the ACC in tackles per game at 7.8 per and has reached double figure stops in the three of the previous four games. As a sophomore in 2007, he ranked third on the team with 68 total tackles. On the other side, Ramon Buchanan will likely make his second career start against the Blue Devils. On the season he's split time as a back-up, recording 21 stops in 10 games including 2.0 TFL. The middle is manned by junior Darryl Sharpton - who will participate in the East-West Shrine game - and was on the preseason list for the 2009 Dick Butkus Award. He currently ranks second behind McCarthy on the team tackles list with 67 including 5.0 for loss. In the middle
The middle of the defensive backfield is occupied by junior strong safety Jared Campbell and third year sophomore Vaughn Telemaque at free safety. The pair have combined for 55 stops and eight pass breakups. The corners are led by junior DeMarcus Van Dyke and sophomore Brandon Harris. Van Dyke has recorded 22 stops and one interception on the year on the right side. Meanwhile, Harris has been named ACC Defensive Back of the Week once this year after tallying a game- and career-high nine tackles (three solo) and breaking up two passes against Florida State. Harris ranks among the national leaders in passes broken up (12) and passes defended (13) and ranks third on the team with 46 tackles this season.
After looking like the league's top team early in the season, Miami has shown some of their youth for extended periods of time over the last few weeks. That being said, the Hurricane roster is full of high major athletes with experience playing at extremely high levels. Add that into the ever-expanding injury list in Durham and, on paper, this looks like a mismatch. Still, Blue Devil teams neither as talented nor disciplined have taken the Hurricanes and made them sweat in each of the past two seasons. Everyone in the stadium from the fan in the last row to the coaches, know that Duke probably won't be running the ball with any level of success against Miami. That leaves the ball in the hands of Thaddeus Lewis. If the offensive line can protect Lewis and give him time - unlike the game against North Carolina - then Duke will be able to move the chains and make this a game. The Blue Devils are fighting for their post season lives. A win against Miami may be the springboard they need heading into the next game against Wake Forest. Still, it's an up hill task. This could be a close one, but injuries and depth will likely be the deciding factors.
Predicted Final Score:
Duke - 24
Miami - 30