MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — There was so much promise for Duke and Miami.
Duke was 4-0 and found its way into the AP Top 25. Miami started the season ranked No. 8, won five of its first six games and looked again to be the team to beat in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division.
And then things went bad — in a hurry.
The good times seem long ago for the Blue Devils (5-3, 1-3) and the Hurricanes (5-3, 2-2). Duke has dropped three of its last four games, and Miami has lost two straight to put its hopes of successfully defending the Coastal crown in serious jeopardy.
“Both teams need a win,” Miami coach Mark Richt said.
The Hurricanes are taking plenty of heat from their fan base these days, but if they need some positivity they need to look no further than to Duke coach David Cutcliffe.
He said Miami is “probably a football team without a weakness,” and lauded the Hurricanes’ defense as potentially the best in the country.
“They’re as talented as anybody’s seen anywhere,” Cutcliffe said. “So what we have to do is minimize any errors, which is obvious, and we also have to play at an extremely high level.”
The root of Miami’s problems right now is its offense, and the struggles there are renewing calls from some fans on social media about Richt’s playcalling.
Those concerns about the offense had Richt playing defense.
“I respond to it in that there’s nothing wrong with the plays being called, quite frankly,” Richt said. “What’s wrong is we haven’t executed well enough. If anybody got in the room with us and saw what we were doing and how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it, if they knew football, they’d know we have to do a better job executing of what we call, quite frankly.”
Duke’s defense forced a total of nine turnovers in its five wins — and zero in the three losses.
“It has to become important to everybody in the organization to create turnovers and take care of the football,” Cutcliffe said.
Here’s some of what to know going into Saturday night:
Miami has held the lead for 6.6 percent of the time in its last three games — all of that coming in the final 11:52 of the massive comeback against Florida State — and hasn’t scored first in any of its last seven games against ACC opponents going back to last season. Out of the 28 quarters in those seven games, Miami has held the end-of-period lead only eight times.
Comparing scores is a silly method of deciding whether one team should beat another, especially in the Coastal Division. Duke exemplifies why that method is futile. The Blue Devils beat Georgia Tech by 14 and lost to Virginia Tech by 17. So naturally, Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech by 21 points. The only shared opponent Miami and Duke have so far this season is Virginia; the Hurricanes lost to the Cavaliers by three, the Blue Devils lost by 14.
FIRST TO 20
The magic number on Saturday might be 20. Miami is 5-0 when it scores 20 points or more, 0-3 when it does not. Duke is 5-1 when it scores 20 or more, 0-2 when it does not.
RIGHT AT HOME
Miami has won its last eight ACC home games, by far the Hurricanes’ best such streak since entering the conference in 2004. Before this current run started in 2016, Miami — somewhat unbelievably — had never won more than three consecutive ACC home contests. Miami actually started 17-18 in its first 35 ACC home games, and has gone 17-6 in those games since. Duke hasn’t won at Miami since 1976, losing its last six trips.
IT ALL CHANGED
The third anniversary of Miami’s eight-lateral, shouldn’t-have-counted kickoff return for a touchdown to beat Duke in 2015 was this week. Fortunes seemed to change on that play. Duke had won 25 of 34 games (.735) going into that game and has gone 18-21 (.462) since. Miami had won 22 of its last 40 games (.550) before that night in Durham, North Carolina, and has gone 28-12 (.700) since.