I won't be at Wallace Wade Stadium for Saturday's game against the Blue Devils, but I'll still leave you with a preview of the game with the keys to victory for the Canes and of our market watch.
KEYS TO THE GAME
> Get pressure on Thaddeus Lewis: One of the reason's UM was able to escape with a win last year against Duke was because the Canes sacked Lewis nine times including on fourth down with Duke at the UM 30-yard line and the game on the line. We all know UM's front seven has played well against the run for the most part (except that FSU game) and ranks 16th overall nationally. The two problems with Miami's front seven has been giving up big plays to scrambling quarterbacks and not getting to the quarterback enough. The Canes had five sacks last week and appear like they're doing a better job with a healthy Allen Bailey. But this week, it's going to be imperative for Miami to not only get to Lewis, but to make sure he doesn't sneak away for first downs and big gains when he decides to run. In its 27-0 loss to Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets did a great job shutting down Lewis and the Duke passing game and getting off the field on third down. UM can't revert to what it did against FSU and North Carolina and expect to win. Duke has given up 11 sacks this season, a little over two a game.
> Establish the running game: When Miami has run the football successfully this season, they've won. The numbers don't lie. In wins, UM has averaged 37 attempts and 170 yards on the ground. In losses, 28 attempts for 82 yards. Duke returns 10 of 11 starters on its defense from a year ago, but the weakness is its run defense, which ranks 81st nationally (161.2 ypg) and next-to-last in the ACC. Javarris James will be back this week and will help a UM running game that sorely needs someone to provide support for Graig Cooper. If James can, then Miami can win this game.
> Win the turnover battle: Robert Marve's seven interceptions in his last three games have been well documented. What hasn't is that UM still isn't creating turnovers on defense. Miami recovered a key fumble on special teams and blocked a punt last week, but dropped a pair of possible interceptions. Ultimately, this defense has made just two interceptions this season (Sean Spence and Bruce Johnson) and recovered three fumbles -- the other two were on special teams. Duke, meanwhile, is a team that thrive on turnovers. In their three wins, the Blue Devils have recovered four fumbles and picked off six passes and won the turnover battle convincingly.
> Javarris James, running back: Baby J isn't 100 percent, but could be the hero in this game for the Canes, who have sorely missed his running between the tackles. Before he got hurt, JJ was looking as good as he ever has a Cane. Miami sorely needs someone to take pressure of the Canes' quarterbacks. Graig Cooper and JJ are those guys.
> Chavez Grant, cornerback: Nobody might know Thaddeus Lewis better than Grant, who was his teammate for years in Pop Warner ball and as freshmen at Booker T. Washington High. Grant has a 5-0 record going up against his old buddy (between high school and college) and has emerged as the real leader in Miami's secondary. Although he's been moved to the slot at nickelback in favor of freshman Brandon Harris, Grant is likely to be the guy pointing out where Duke's offense will be going in the passing game most of the afternoon. Last week, Grant called out UCF's final play before it happened and it helped Darryl Sharpton, who batted the pass away on fourth down. Duke will often line up leading receiver Eron Riley all over the field. Look for Chavez to be the guy who draws him the most often.
On The Bubble
> Robert Marve, quarterback: Mr. Marve has had major struggles lately and needs a bounce back game in the worst way. His last two outings against FSU and UCF produced these numbers -- 25 completions on 59 attempts, 196 yards, 1 TD and 5 INTs. UM has been throwing the ball 49 percent of the time since Javarris James went down compared to the 58 percent it was when he was healthy. Look for fewer throws from Marve, especially safer ones. If not, we may see Jacory Harris in the game again in the second half.
> Patrick Nix, offensive coordinator: Speaking of bounce back games, Nix needs one maybe even worse than his quarterback. His old team, Georgia Tech, laid the blueprint on how to beat the Dukies two weeks ago. It's called run the football effectively and have it set up the playaction pass. Duke is an improved team. But the Blue Devils don't nearly have the speed and talent North Carolina and FSU has. Miami's offense can't be bad on third down again and can't send Matt Bosher out to punt 11 times again like it did a week ago.
> DeMarcus Van Dyke, cornerback: Last week, I listed Sam Shields here after his costly interception against FSU basically took him out of the receiver rotation altogether. Here's to hoping the same thing happens for DVD. Shields bounced back with a big fumble recovery on special teams against UCF. DVD isn't making the plays right now in the secondary, dropping an interception against FSU and getting beat for the winning touchdown against UNC. Shannon told us he's basically only in there on Dime situations. Not what the Canes were hoping for after what looked like a promising freshman season.
> Jermaine McKenzie, receiver: I don't think he'll ever see the field this year at this point.
> My prediction: I don't have one this week. I really am completely torn. It smells so much like the Blue Devils are due their big win against UM, especially after coming so close the past two years and considering how bad UM has looked even in its win last week at UCF. Honestly, this game could go a lot of different ways.