1. When Duke Johnson goes big, Miami wins.
Duke Johnson, the 5'9, 196-lb. sophomore halfback at the center of Miami's offense, has played in 13 games as a Hurricane. In the seven games where he has topped 70 yards rushing, Miami is 6-1. In the six games where he has been held below 70 yards, the Hurricanes are 2-4.
The worst news of all for Florida: Johnson has been held below 100 yards just once in his last five games, and that was by design: He was held out of the fourth quarter of Miami's blowout win over South Florida last season after racking up 66 yards and a touchdown.
2. The unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
Florida has allowed two runs of 50 or more yards in the last decade. Johnson has six such carries in his career. In Miami's opener against Florida Atlantic last week, Johnson ran for 186 yards on 19 carries, the fourth time in his last five games that Johnson has averaged more than nine yards per carry. Florida has not allowed an opponent's top rusher to exceed five yards a carry since the 2012 Gator Bowl win against Ohio State. And Miami is 7-0 in games where Johnson scores a rushing touchdown. The hurricanes are 1-5 in games where Johnson is shut out.
3. Recruiting battles matter.
Johnson was a five-star halfback from Miami, pursued by nearly every major program in the country. He committed to the Hurricanes early in his junior season, but Florida had a scholarship offer on the table and kept up the pursuit. Johnson stuck with Miami despite the NCAA's ongoing investigation and postseason sanctions, and gets his first -- and likely last -- chance to face the Gators Saturday. State of the U is optimistic:
I know Miami hasn't fared well in big time non-conference games recently, but I think this is where they turn the corner. It will be strength vs strength when Miami is on offense and Florida is on defense. If Stephen Morris, Duke Johnson and company can score some points on Florida's defense, they should be in good position to win.