3 things to know about Duke Johnson, Miami's star running back

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If Miami is going to upset Florida State Saturday, Duke Johnson is going to have to lead the way. Here's what you need to know about the Hurricanes' top halfback.

1. He's Miami's most important player Saturday. Florida State's defense has been stingy -- the Seminoles are fourth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 13 points per game -- but it has not been so good against the run. Florida State is first nationally in passing yards allowed and fifth in pass efficiency defense, but a pedestrian 30th against the run.

If Miami is going to upset Florida State Saturday night, it has to run effectively, both to exploit the Seminoles' biggest defensive weakness and keep the high-powered Seminoles offense off the field. That run game begins with Duke Johnson. If Duke runs well Saturday, Miami has a chance. Without him, it's hard to find a path to victory for the 'Canes.

2. He's Miami's most important player pretty much every week. The Hurricanes are running for a staggering 214.7 yards per game this season, more rushing yards than any Hurricane team since Eisenhower was president. It's one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, and it starts with Johnson. Duke leads the ACC with 823 running yards through seven games. Three times this season, he has run for more than 160 yards. His 6.7 yards per carry average is great, but Johnson runs for almost a full yard per carry more in road games.

There is only one place where Johnson has not been dominant: The fourth quarter. The Hurricanes have relied on Dallas Crawford late in games and around the goal line to reduce Johnson's workload. Entering last week's game against Wake Forest, Johnson had broken 20 carries in just two games. In the Hurricanes' nailbiting win over the Demon Deacons, that all changed as Johnson posted a career-high 30 carries -- including 14 in the fourth quarter -- and scored two crucial late touchdowns on the goal line. In doing so, he became the workhorse that Al Golden so desperately wants. Expect the running back rotation to continue against Florida State, but Johnson's place at the top of the rotation should now remain through all four quarters.

3. This was expected. When he came out of Miami's Norland High School in 2012, Johnson was widely considered one of the top 20 players in the nation. Rivals gave him a five-star rating and ranked him the top running back in the country. At 247 Sports, he was only behind Keith Marshall of Georgia and Trey Williams of Texas A&M; he has outrushed both of them so far this year. With nearly 1800 yards and 16 touchdowns in less than two seasons, he has clearly met expectations.

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