No. 24 Miami visits Duke in key ACC matchup
Duke insists it isn't looking past No. 24 Miami.
As absurd as that may sound to some college football fans, it's an indication of far the Blue Devils feel their program has come.
Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC) can take control of the Coastal Division with a win over the Hurricanes (7-2, 3-2) on Saturday in a matchup of teams headed in opposite directions.
Since starting 7-0 and climbing to No. 7 nationally, Miami has lost two straight.
The Blue Devils, who went winless four times from 1996-2007 and had two one-win seasons, have won five straight — their longest streak since 1994 — and already clinched their first winning season since then.
"I'm fortunate enough to see this program just completely take a 180-(degree) flip," said defensive end Kenny Anunike, a sixth-year senior whose final home game comes against the Hurricanes.
"We used to be the bottom of the barrel, and now we're talking about contending once again for the ACC championship," he added. "That's awesome. That's truly gratifying."
Both teams remain alive in a muddy Coastal that is left with three teams — these two, plus Virginia Tech — with two league losses apiece following Georgia Tech's loss to Clemson on Thursday night. The Blue Devils already own the head-to-head tiebreaker with Virginia Tech.
Still, Miami has dominated Duke and the Hurricanes certainly don't lack for motivation in this matchup, either.
The Hurricanes' 10th straight win over Duke would bring them one step closer to a rematch with No. 2 Florida State — which already wrapped up the Atlantic — and the ACC title game berth they voluntarily gave up last year in a self-sanctioning move during an NCAA investigation.
"Our seniors have never been 7-2. They've never won a bowl game and haven't been to a bowl game ... because they weren't allowed to be," Miami coach Al Golden said. "So our seniors are doing a good job leading and making sure the guys know there is a lot of football left, a lot to play for."
Duke knows it can't afford to get caught up in daydreaming about the possibilities that lie ahead: The Blue Devils finish the regular season against two sub-.500 instate rivals against whom they ended long losing streaks in 2012 — Wake Forest and North Carolina.
A win over Miami and Duke would have a legitimate shot at a division title, the first 10-win season in school history and a crack at the league championship.
"Now you're getting into the dream year," coach David Cutcliffe said. "That would be a dream season for these young men."
Five things to know about Miami's second straight visit to Duke:
NO DUKE AGAINST DUKE: The Hurricanes' stumbles have coincided with the loss of RB Duke Johnson, who's out for the season after breaking his right ankle in the Florida State loss. Against the Seminoles and Virginia Tech last week, Miami averaged just 2.0 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Duke has been tough to run on lately: The only teams with more than 175 yards rushing on the Blue Devils were two option teams, Georgia Tech and Navy.
AIRING IT OUT: Duke's top cornerback, Ross Cockrell, is listed as probable after he missed the North Carolina State game with an ankle injury he suffered two weeks earlier in the Virginia Tech win. The Blue Devils surely will need him to keep a handle on Miami QB Stephen Morris, who threw for three touchdowns in last year's 52-45 win..
BIG-PLAY CANES: Even without Johnson, Miami still has plenty of big-play capability. Morris had a pair of 80-yard passes against the Hokies, hitting Stacy Coley for 81 yards before finding Allen Hurns for 84. Morris has three of the five longest passes by any Miami quarterback in an ACC game.
DUKE VS. RANKED TEAMS: The Blue Devils haven't beaten two ranked teams in the same season since 1971, when they knocked off No. 19 South Carolina and No. 10 Stanford. The win over the Cardinal had been their last against a Top 25 team on the road — until last month's victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
FINISHING STRONG: Part of the reason for Duke's success has been its strength in the fourth quarter. They've had three game-winning drives in that quarter — beating Memphis, Virginia and North Carolina State in the final 15 minutes — while allowing only 34 points in the final quarter of their nine games. And Duke's fourth-quarter defense has scored as many touchdowns (two) this season as it has allowed.