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X Factor: Duke football vs. Miami

Quarterback Malik Rosier will look to push the ball downfield against Duke's defense.
Quarterback Malik Rosier will look to push the ball downfield against Duke's defense.

Looking to avenge the disastrous outcome of the last meeting in Durham and last year's blowout, the Blue Devils look to knock off No.14 Miami in a game with major ACC Championship implications.

Every week throughout the football season, the Blue Zone will break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest.

Duke: Cornerback Byron Fields Jr.

The key to beating Miami Friday night is to stifle its high-powered offense, or at least impede its progress. The Blue Devil defense has been stifling this year, holding opponents to just 261.5 yards per game and ranking No. 1 in the country in efficiency, thanks in part contributors like cornerback Byron Fields Jr. 

His presence will be needed Friday night, as Miami quarterback Malik Rosier is averaging 275 yards per game and has thrown for six touchdowns and just one interception this season. The secondary, including Fields, will have to prevent deep passes from Malik Rosier to keep the game close and allow their own offense to strike.

Fields has proven he’s elite, already snagging two interceptions this season, both of which were returned for touchdowns, including the game-sealing score against North Carolina Saturday. With the Hurricanes' explosive rushing offense, spearheaded by running back Mark Walton, Fields Jr. and the rest of the secondary will need to slow Rosier to take some pressure off the front seven. 

Miami: Quarterback Malik Rosier

The last time these two teams met at Wallace Wade Stadium, Malik Rosier started in place of injured starting quarterback Brad Kaaya on Oct. 31, 2015. That night, Rosier threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and now comes off an  333-yard, three touchdown performance Saturday against Toledo. Rosier heads the ACC’s leading offensive unit, averaging 568.5 yards per game, into Durham to face a tough Duke defense in its first ACC Coastal matchup of the season.

Duke’s defense will be challenged with limiting the dual-threat quarterback's efficiency. Rosier posts an impressive passer rating of 168.8 thus far, and will look to connect on deep passes with Braxton Berrios, his favorite wide receiver. While the Blue Devil defense has been uncharacteristically tough in the short passing game this year, it has given up some big plays down the field. If Rosier and Miami can exploit this vulnerability in Duke's defense, it could be difficult for the Blue Devils to keep up. 


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