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Miami Hurricanes vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Prediction

Miami Hurricanes vs. Duke Blue Devils: Mark Walton

Miami Hurricanes vs. Duke Blue Devils: Mark Walton

The Miami Hurricanes will play a rare Friday night conference game as they will travel to Durham to take on theDuke Blue Devils. This will be the first time the Hurricanes have played in Durham since 2015.

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That game ended in controversial fashion, as Duke scored on a quarterback sneak to take a 27-24 lead with just six seconds remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, Miami executed a series of eight laterals that resulted in Corn Elder doing much of the leg work for what was credited as a 91-yard return for a touchdown. There was a penalty called for an illegal block in the back, but after a lengthy review the officials announced that the block was not to the player’s back but to his side, so the flag was waved off as the Hurricanes were awarded the touchdown and the improbable win.

Last Saturday, playing for the first time since Sept. 2 because of schedule changes caused by Hurricane Irma, Miami got off to a slow start at home against Toledo and trailed 16-10 at halftime. But the Hurricanes came alive in the second half, putting up 42 points to pull away for a 52-30 win over the Rockets from the MAC.

Duke also won last weekend, beating archrival North Carolina 27-17 in Chapel Hill to maintain possession of the Victory Bell. The Tar Heels led 17-13 entering the fourth quarter but Shaun Wilson had a short touchdown run and Byron Fields returned an interception 61 yards for a score to seal the victory.

Both teams enter this key ACC Coastal Division matchup undefeated, although Miami has played just two games thus far. The Hurricanes have won their past three meetings against the Blue Devils, including a 40-21 victory at home last season.

Miami at Duke

Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Miami -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Duke rushing attack

One of the reasons for Duke's 4-0 start is their three-headed rushing attack. The Blue Devils have three players with at least 200 rushing yards. This balance has Duke averaging 227 yards on the ground per game, good for fourth in the ACC.

Shaun Wilson (above, right) is Duke's leading rusher with 349 yards, which also places him fifth in the conference. He also has a team-high five rushing touchdowns. Brittain Brown is not too far behind with 325 yards while quarterback Daniel Jones has chipped in 141 yards and three scores.

Miami has done a good job against the run, holding FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman and Toledo to 206 total rushing yards, but this will be the first true test for the Hurricanes’ defense. Likewise, Miami’s defensive front will be the best the Blue Devils have faced after having success against North Carolina Central from the FCS ranks, Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina. For comparison’s sake, of the three FBS teams, the Wildcats from the Big Ten rank best in terms of rushing defense (79th). The Hurricanes currently sit at 23rd.

2. Mark Walton

Despite playing only two games, Walton is second in the ACC in rushing with 352 yards. He ran all over Toledo last week to the tune of 204 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. That’s an average of nearly 19 yards per carry.

Walton will be tested this week as Duke has one of the best rushing defenses in the country. The Blue Devils rank second in FBS against the run, holding opponents to 65.3 rushing yards per game and a meager 2.3 yards per carry.

Overall, Duke’s defense is 11th in yards (261.5) and tied for 17th in points (15.3) allowed per game, so Walton and the rest of Miami’s offense needs to be clicking on all cylinders and can’t afford to get off to another slow start like the Hurricanes did against Toledo.

3. Daniel Jones

Miami gave up 342 passing yards and three touchdowns to Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside last week. The Hurricanes will face another talented signal-caller in Duke’s Jones.

Last week against North Carolina, Jones threw for 202 yards and a touchdown and added 28 rushing yards in the win. A dual-threat quarterback, Jones enters this game eighth in the ACC in total offense with 261.3 yards per game.

Duke Blue Devils QB Daniel Jones

Although he’s not known for being a proficient passer, Jones could have opportunities to make plays through the air going against a rebuilt Miami secondary that has struggled (286.5 passing yards per game) in the early going.

Final Analysis

Through four games, Duke appears to be a serious contender for the ACC Coastal title. While the Blue Devils have been impressive thus far, Friday night will be their toughest test.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

Not only does Miami feature one of the conference’s top running backs in Mark Walton, but Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier is coming off of a nice big game (303 yards, 3 TDs) against Toledo. Rosier has plenty of weapons to throw to, including tight end Chris Herndon IV, who caught eight passes for 65 yards and a touchdown last week.

While it will be a close game, expect Miami to come away with a crucial divisional win on the road.

Prediction: Miami 31, Duke 27

— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.