Miami vs. Duke Football Game Suddenly as Important as Basketball Showdown

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Miami vs. Duke Football Game Suddenly as Important as Basketball Showdown
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Stephen Morris needs to get the Hurricanes back to their winning ways.

The Miami Hurricanes' meeting with the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, Nov. 16 will not be as noteworthy as one that took place on a basketball court in January, but it is just as important.

As Al Golden prepares his Miami football team for a meeting with Duke, parallels between this 7-2 squad and the upstart 2012-13 'Canes men's basketball team can be easily drawn.

Occasional viewers of the sport probably had little idea of the potentially special rosters at the University of Miami, but both Hurricanes teams peeked out from the shadows with early-season headline wins.

In basketball, senior Trey McKinney Jones set a career high, scoring 18 points during an upset over No. 13 Michigan State. On the football field, senior Stephen Morris tossed two superb touchdowns when Miami defeated No. 12 Florida.

With a signature win in the books, each 'Canes team was soon led by a fantastic sophomore—Shane Larkin running the point and Duke Johnson in the backfield—and burst into the national picture.

Larkin directed Miami basketball to a No. 25 ranking days before the top-ranked Blue Devils were scheduled to play at the Bank United Center.

And then, much to the complete and utter shock of the nation, the Hurricanes absolutely lambasted Duke, and the 27-point victory launched Miami's eventual ascent to the No. 2 spot in the country.

Similarly, Duke Johnson was a major reason these 'Canes started the 2013 season 7-0 between the numbers, averaging exactly 115 yards during his eight games played. Unfortunately, Johnson suffered a broken ankle against Florida State that will sideline him for the remainder of the year.

But Johnson's injury has directly affected the position Miami is in this weekend.

No, it's not the sophomore's fault. At all. In the least.

Ultimately, the 'Canes dearly missed him during last week's loss to Virginia Tech. Johnson's ability to break off long gains and keep opposing defenses off-balance could not be replaced by the combination of Dallas Crawford and Gus Edwards.

Miami is now part of a four-way tie atop the Coastal Division with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Duke, but the Hurricanes do not control their own destiny.

The Hokies earned that honor after destroying Miami's defense and have just two games remaining this season. If Virginia Tech beats Maryland and rival Virginia, results of the Hurricanes' final three ACC contests do not matter.

But Frank Beamer's team has been delightfully frustrating, putting together solid games against top competition while being contained by its lesser opponents, such as East Carolina and Marshall.

Miami is no longer the favorite to win the Coastal, but it sure isn't dead.

Pretend the Hokies lose to Maryland. Just pretend.

The Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech earlier this year, so a win over Duke would return Miami to sole possession of first place in the division.

Will Miami end its two-game losing streak by beating Duke?

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Yes, Virginia and Pittsburgh are still on the schedule, but a loss to the Blue Devils officially eliminates the Hurricanes from all ACC title discussions.

On the basketball court, an enormous victory over the Blue Devils propelled the 2012-13 Hurricanes basketball team to both a league and tournament title as Larkin and Co. took control of the conference.

An appearance in the ACC Championship Game was Miami's biggest season goal, and that is still attainable by winning the final three games and getting some help from Maryland.

Though the Miami football team is just looking for a division title, the point remains: Without a victory, the 'Canes are not in good position to have a shot at winning the conference. It is imperative that Miami knocks off Duke to stay in the hunt for the Coastal Division—no matter how quickly that goal is disappearing.

Otherwise, the Hurricanes are nothing more than another fringe-ranked team possessing more talent than its record shows—something that 2012-13 Miami basketball avoided by earning a huge win over the Blue Devils.

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