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The Miami Hurricanes have taken a somewhat surprising lead in the ACC's Coastal Division. What are their strengths and weaknesses that have guided them to where they are now? We're joined by SB Nation's Miami blog, State of the U.
Updated as of 10:05: We took the liberty of
imposing our thoughts and opinions answering some of their questions as well. Check out State of the U to read what they asked and what I answered, and thanks to Lt. Philip Nolan for taking the time to answer these questions!
Streaking The Lawn: Similarly to Mike London's second season last year, Al Golden finds now the Canes in a position to play themselves into the ACC title game. At this point in the season, what are your expectations for how the rest of the year plays out, and where does Miami end up in the post-season?
State of the U: This has become a pretty huge point of contention among fans the last few days. Miami is truly in a unique situation at the moment. They are looking at possibly receiving their notice of allegations in the next month or so, but on top of that, they have to make the choice on whether or not to forfeit the postseason on their own, or play it. On one hand, they have already sacrificed a bowl game last year, so many see that as enough to justify playing through everything this year and going as far as they can. On the other, self-imposing another year of bans would likely still help their cause with the NCAA, so there is some reason to doing it again. I'm personally torn between the two options, because both have both short and long term effects. Behind it all though, lies the fact that through all of the criticism and hate that fans have been throwing around at the fact that Golden is 11-10 in his Miami tenure, they seem to gloss over the fact that in his second year, after adopting a program then being blindsided by the NCAA, and with a team that starts one of the highest totals of freshmen in the country game in and game out, he has the Canes on the cusp of doing something no other Miami team has done since coming to the ACC. That alone is pretty spectacular.
STL: Before the start of the season, the ACC media picked Miami to finish fifth in the Coastal Division. With Miami now in the driver's seat, what has been the X factor that's brought Miami to where it is today?
SOTU: There isn't really one thing more than the other. Frankly, the Coastal division is...well...bad. With UNC being banned, and the other teams fighting for .500 records, it's really just about who can take advantage. As far as Miami is concerned, one of the things that has helped them tremendously has been the play of their freshmen. Kids like Ereck Flowers, Duke Johnson, Deon Bush, and Tyriq McCord have stepped up in a huge way. While the youth is also a big reason for some of the bad plays and losses, that's to be expected. The emergence of some upperclassmen has been big as well, with Phillip Dorsett, Mike James, Brandon McGee all stepping up their games to help out.
STL: Duke Johnson!! I guess that's not a question. But seriously, the freshman running back leads the team with 555 yards and has seven touchdowns on the year. As a freshman. What's the secret to his containment?
SOTU: I have no idea. You're on your own with this one. Before the VT game, people were starting to wonder if he had been figured out, if teams had figured out how to stop him. He was, of course, banged up a bit, and was playing at less than 100%. Coming into the VT game, he had said he was the healthiest he has ever been, and it showed. He still has some work to do as far as being a complete back, as he has a bit of a tendency to dance around too much and get stopped at the line of scrimmage, but if he gets into the second line of defense, you're screwed. You had better hope you have three or more guys ready to tackle him, because 1-on-1 or even 2-on-1 he is probably the most dangerous dude on the field. His cutback on the late run against VT was a freak show.
STL: Miami has allowed more yardage than any other ACC team this year, ranking 113th in the nation. Is it accurate to say that if Virginia can find a way to run the ball, they'll find a way to win?
SOTU: Yes and no. If you can run the ball AND minimize your own mistakes, you should be fine. But VT ran the ball well and lost, because they screwed around when they weren't running the ball. It's weird, because while the stats don't necessarily show it, the defense has improved a lot over the past few games. To hang with FSU the way they did, and then to shut out VT in the second half was huge. The return of Curtis Porter from an appendectomy and the emergence of Luther Robinson on the line is paying off huge as well.
STL: Miami dialed up some Beamer Ball action last week against the Hokies themselves. Virginia's special teams have been...challenged this season. Last week aside, how has Miami's special teams performed during the season, and is there any chance at all that this will be a "which team sucks less" situation in this category? Any chance at all? Be generous.
SOTU: Ignore the blocked punt, because I'm still not convinced that actually happened. Miami's special teams are actually pretty good. With Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett returning punts and kick offs, there's always the chance of a big return. Dalton Botts is one of the better punters in the country. Jake Wieclaw struggled a bit this season, which is uncanny, but he has apparently righted the ship as of late. If you want to know what to do on your special teams side to help win the game, I would say don't kick it to Duke. Really. That's it.
STL: Vegas opened the line with Miami as just a 3-point favorite. That, I think, was pretty unexpected across the board. How does Saturday shake out? Who wins and by how much?
SOTU: While Vegas usually knows their stuff, the lines on ACC games come off to me as basically putting a betting line on that infuriating ring toss game at carnivals. I don't pay attention to them, especially when Miami is involved, because you really never know what you're going to get. A few weeks ago, I would have penciled this one in for an easy Miami win, but you guys have been playing well as of late, and it is at your house. I still think Miami pulls it out simply because the kids know what is at stake, and will play hard. I'm terrible at predicting scores, so I'll say 35-28, Miami.