The Miami Hurricanes have had an rough few days. After their 58-0 loss to the Clemson Tigers last weekend, Hurricanes' athletic director Blake James fired head coach Al Golden. Tight ends coach Larry Scott will serve as the team’s interim head coach for the rest of the 2015 season.
With all the speculation on who will become the Hurricanes (4-3) next head coach, the team will play their first game since Golden's firing in Durham against the Duke Blue Devils.
Duke (6-1) is coming off the longest game in ACC history as they defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies 45-43 in four overtimes. The Blue Devils will try to remain perfect in the ACC as they attempt to win the Coastal Division for the second time in three seasons.
Miami has a 10-2 all-time record against Duke coming into Saturday’s matchup, but the last time the two teams met in Durham, the Blue Devils were victorious 48-30.
Miami at Duke
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Three Things to Watch
1. Malik Rosier
Starting quarterback Brad Kaaya suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Clemson and is not expected to play against Duke. Miami’s backup and Kaaya’s roommate Malik Rosier has been taking all the first-team snaps in practice this week and is expected to start.
In relief of Kaaya, Rosier struggled against Clemson as the freshman finished 7-of-22 for 42 yards and threw two interceptions. Now that the Hurricanes have been preparing Rosier all week to be the starter, it will be interesting to see if he can play any better against the stingy Duke defense.
In seven games, the Blue Devils’ defense have given up an average of 281.3 yards, which ranks ninth in the FBS in total defense. Scott believes Rosier will be ready for Duke.
“Malik has really attacked this thing,” said Scott. “We’ve been happy with his attitude, his mindset. He’s feeding of the energy coming from Coach (James) Coley, and he’s feeding off the energy that, even in these times, we’re bringing to the building every day. He’s preparing. He’s in watching film. He’s in the middle of it all. He really wants to do well.”
2. Thomas Sirk
Clemson was able to gain 567 total yards against Miami’s defense in their blowout win last Saturday. It doesn’t get any easier for the Hurricanes defense as they will play one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the ACC in Thomas Sirk.
For his performance against Virginia Tech, Sirk was named this week’s ACC Offensive Back of the Week. The junior threw for 270 yards and four touchdowns. Sirk also rushed for 109 yards on 18 carries.
Miami does rank second in the nation in turnover margin at +11, so they will have to hope Sirk and the Blue Devil offense will make some mistakes during the game.
3. Miami’s running game
An inexperienced quarterback’s best friend is a strong running game. One way that Miami can help both Rosier and their struggling defense is if they can run the football. Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton will both likely to be asked to carry the load for the Hurricanes offense.
After averaging 106 rushing yards in his first four games of the season, Yearby has struggled in his last three games. The sophomore has only averaged 45 rushing yards in his last three games, resulting in a 1-2 record for the Hurricanes.
While Walton hasn’t gotten a lot of carries the last few games, expect him and Yearby to be a big part of Miami’s game plan against the Blue Devils.
This game has blowout written all over. Miami probably won’t lose as badly as they did against Clemson, but Duke should win this game easily.
The Blue Devils offense should be able to exploit the Hurricanes mediocre defense. Running back Shaquille Powell hasn’t had a big game all season, but against Miami, who has the 102nd best rushing defense in the nation, he could have a season-high in rushing yardage.
Without Kaaya, who is the ACC’s leading passer, it will be very difficult for Miami to win in Durham. Rosier working with the Hurricanes first-team in practice should help him feel comfortable, but Duke should be able to force some turnovers in his first career start.
Prediction: Duke 44, Miami 14
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.