Despite being ranked 14th in the nation, Miami has been relatively untested prior to entering conference play this weekend.

The Hurricanes storm into Durham looking to defend their status as one of the top teams in the nation. Although most teams are playing their fifth contest this week, Duke will be just Miami’s third opponent of the season. After handily beating Bethune-Cookman in week one, the Hurricanes were unable to play Arkansas State the next week due to the impact of Hurricane Irma and postponed their Week 3 game against Florida State. Miami returned to play last weekend and used a 42-point second half to get past Toledo 52-30.

Duke struggled against the Hurricanes last season in their 40-21 loss in Miami, and Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe sees the Hurricanes as a big obstacle in the way of the team’s first 5-0 start since 1994.

“Miami may very well be the most talented team that we will see this year,” Cutcliffe said. “I don’t see a weakness. They have it at both lines of scrimmage, they have it at receiver, they have it at DB, they’ve got it at running back, they’ve got it at linebacker, they’ve got it at quarterback and in their kicking game. It’s a challenge, but it’s certainly an opportunity for us.”

Offensively, Miami (2-0, 0-0 in the ACC) gains the most yards per game in the ACC with 568.5 and is led by junior quarterback Malik Rosier, who took over following Brad Kaaya's departure to the NFL. 

Rosier was outstanding in the victory against Toledo, throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns—all of which came in the second half. Prior to this season, the Mobile, Ala., native’s lone career start was in Durham in 2015, a game the Hurricanes won on a controversial kick return for a touchdown on the final play.

In order for the Blue Devils to remain unbeaten, they will need to defend the play-action passes Rosier and the Hurricanes use frequently. Miami uses its play action to confuse the defense and free up leading receivers Braxton Berrios and Christopher Herndon IV, who both hauled in touchdown passes in Saturday's victory. 

Duke (4-0, 1-0) has yet to face a play-action heavy team this season, but cornerback Mark Gilbert believes the Blue Devil defense has what it takes to contain deep balls downfield. 

“They’re definitely a great team in every aspect of the game,” Gilbert said. “They’ve got an amazing back and they have top-tier wideouts. But we’re a very confident defense, so we’re going to come out Friday playing just how we’ve been playing the first four games.”

Although Duke has been one of the nation's best defensive teams this season—holding opponents to just 261.5 yards per contest—the Blue Devils have been vulnerable to big plays both in the air and on the ground. Duke has allowed five touchdown plays of more than 35 yards in its last two games and will face another explosive threat in Hurricane running back Mark Walton.

Walton is coming off a career-best 204-yard performance Saturday, when he broke out for long rushes of 44 and 82 yards, and will be looking to continue his recent success against the Blue Devils. The Miami native totaled 106 yards and a touchdown in the Hurricanes' victory a year ago, and Cutcliffe had high praise for Walton’s ability to run the ball.

“He is a tremendous football player, fiercely competitive at running the ball and plays fast,” Cutcliffe said. “He explodes through holes and he comes out on the other side of it, sometimes untouched. He can break tackles and outrun you. You don’t really see any weakness. He’s a big-time player.” 

The Hurricanes have dominated offensively, but their defense has yet to reach its full potential. Miami lost four key defensive players to the NFL last April and struggled against Toledo last weekend. The Hurricanes trailed by six points at halftime and allowed 429 yards in the game, including 344 through the air.

Miami will need its defense to get back on track against a Duke team that gains 470.0 yards per contest, including 227.0 on the ground. Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt feels his defense has what it takes to be at its best Friday.

“In our defensive backs, there’s always a sense of urgency,” Richt said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “If you’re a defensive back, you have to be resilient when things don’t go well on a play or in a game. You might get beat on a touchdown, then you have to come back and defend again. People say you have to have a short memory as a defensive back, and its true. They’re put on the spot. They’re getting coached extremely well and they’re getting better.”