ACC schedule change sends Hurricanes to Durham to face the struggling Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils were expecting to be playing at home this week. The Miami Hurricanes had planned on traveling to the state of North Carolina. Both of those things will be happening, but not quite under the expected circumstances.
The two teams will instead play each other at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday. Duke was originally slated to host Florida State this week while the Hurricanes had planned on visiting Wake Forest. With COVID-19 cases with each of those programs, an ACC schedule change was made over the weekend.
Miami needs help but remains alive in its quest for a shot at the ACC Championship. The new schedule certainly helped since only Syracuse has fewer wins than Duke among ACC teams. The No. 10 Hurricanes come in with a record of 7-1 while Duke is just 2-7, although the Blue Devils have won their matchups in each of the last two seasons.
Miami at Duke
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Miami -15.5
When Miami Has the Ball
With first-year offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee and transfer quarterback D'Eriq King, Miami has averaged more than a full touchdown per game more than last season. King is a true dual-threat who has wowed ACC defenses with his ability this season. King ranks fourth in the conference this season in passer rating (149.1) and touchdown passes (17) and added three more scores on the ground. Around King is no shortage of talent at the skill positions.
Running back Cam'Ron Harris leads the team with 471 rushing yards and six touchdowns, and Donald Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton are each nice change-of-pace backs. Knighton is extremely versatile while Chaney is a pure power runner. Mike Harley will be the player to watch out wide, but Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory form the best tight end duo in the ACC. Harley, Jordan, and Mallory have combined for 11 of Miami's 18 touchdown catches this season. The Hurricanes average 33.3 points per contest.
Despite consistently being put in bad positions by its offense, the Duke defense has largely held its own this season. The strength for the Blue Devils is without a doubt, the defensive line. Defensive ends Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje have combined for 15.5 sacks. That's the second-highest tally for any duo in the nation. The Blue Devils are one of only two teams with two players in the top 10 nationally in that area.
Where Duke is vulnerable is defending the run. The Blue Devils allow more than 200 yards per game on the ground and 4.8 yards per carry. Against Georgia Tech last week, Duke allowed 377 yards rushing on nearly eight yards per carry in a 56-33 loss. Duke held Miami to 98 yards on 2.4 yards per carry in last season's 27-17 win over the Hurricanes. Shaka Heyward leads the team with 67 total tackles.
When Duke Has the Ball
For the Duke offense, yardage has not been the problem. The issue has been turnovers. Through nine games this season, the Blue Devils have given the ball away 30 times — the most in the country. Duke has given it away six more times than the next closest team. Quarterback and Clemson transfer Chase Brice is a big reason for that. Brice has thrown 13 interceptions this season, which is more than any other quarterback in the country. Among qualifying players in the ACC, only Syracuse's Rex Culpepper has a lower passer rating and is averaging fewer yards per pass attempt than Brice.
The strength of the Duke offense lies behind Brice. With tailbacks Mataeo Durant and Deon Jackson, the Blue Devils are one of just three ACC teams with two 600-yard rushers. Durant leads the team with 642 yards and seven touchdowns on 6.6 yards per carry. Jackson has 634 yards and has found the end zone four times. In Duke's two victories this season, both players rushed for more than 100 yards.
Miami ranks third in the ACC in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. As is the case with Duke, the strength for the Hurricanes lies up front. Defensive ends Quincy Roche and Jaelen Phillips, both transfers, each rank in the top 10 in the ACC in tackles for loss with 21.5 combined. As a team, Miami ranks 10th in the country in tackles for loss and sixth in tackles for loss per game.
In the secondary, Bubba Bolden and Amari Carter are a pair of hard-hitting safeties and the top two tacklers for the Hurricanes. Bolden leads the team with three forced fumbles. Miami legacy Al Blades Jr. is the best cover man for the Hurricanes and leads the team with two interceptions. As a team, Miami has allowed just 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Gilbert Frierson has been the best linebacker for Miami this season.
Saturday's contest will also feature two outstanding field goal kickers. Duke's Charlie Ham and Miami's Jose Borregales have combined to go 28-for-31 on field goal attempts and 9-for-11 from beyond 40 yards.
Saturday's contest will be the first in three weeks for Miami, but that shouldn't be much of a problem. The Hurricanes have handled adversity well this season and should be too much for Duke. For this contest to be close, the Blue Devils will need to take care of the football and generate enough pressure to keep King from ever getting in a rhythm. When all is said and done, Miami's balanced offensive attack and Duke's struggles against the run will be the difference.
Prediction: Miami 37, Duke 17
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— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.