The Canes are 7-3, after beginning the season 7-0. Their skid began against the Seminoles in a hugely hyped game which turned into a 41-14 FSU blowout. It continued the following week with a 42-24 home loss to the Hokies and then last week Miami was humbled by Duke 45-30. That makes 3 straight losses, all by at least 2 TDs.
The Hoos, of course, have lost 7 in a row. A couple of those games were close, but they've lost their last 3 by double digits and the last two by a combined 80 points. The Hoos' season is over, and they are merely playing out the string. Meanwhile, the Canes are still technically alive for the ACC Coastal title, but it's a long shot. They would need to win out and get some help. That help includes the Hoos beating the Hokies next week. So, like I said, it's along shot.
So, with the Hoos having nothing to play for, and Miami having very little to play for, this game should smash attendance records for college football games in South Florida. At least its Senior Day for Miami. The Hoos have had some success against the Canes on Senior Day. The Hoos have also won 3 straight games against the Canes.
WR: #1 Allen Hurns - 6'3" 195 lb, Senior; #6 Herb Waters - 6'2" 193 lb, Sophomore; #3 Stacy Coley - 6'1" 180 lb, Freshman; #9 Malcolm Lewis - 6'0" 187 lb, Sophomore; #80 Rashawn Scott - 6'2" 199 lb, Junior; #4 Phillip Dorsett - 5'10" 185 lb, Junior
LT: #74 Ereck Flowers - 6'6 315 lb, Sophomore; #79 Malcolm Bunche - 6'7" 327 lb, Junior
LG: #70 Jon Feliciano - 6'5" 318 lb, Junior; #75 Jared Wheeler - 6'5" 319 lb, Senior
C: #62 Shane McDermott - 6'4" 296 lb, Junior; Wheeler
RG: #65 Brandon Linder - 6'6" 319 lb, Senior; Wheeler
RT: #77 Seantrel Henderson - 6'8" 345 lb, Senior; Linder
The Hurricane's losing skid coincides with the injury that star RB Duke Johnson suffered against FSU. Some people have even blamed the injury for the losing skid. Johnson, however, doesn't play defense and the Cane's have given up 40+ points in each of the 3 losses. So clearly the problems run deeper than Johnson. Nonetheless, it's a big loss. Johnson is 15th in the nation in yards per game, and despite missing 3 games is still the 2nd leading rusher in the ACC and 35th in the nation. (BC's Andre Williams leads the conference and the nation in rushing with over 1800 yards. Amazing, he is nearly 500 yards ahead of his nearest competition.)
Johnson was averaging over 6 yards per carry. With Johnson out, the lead tailback has been Crawford, who has averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Still very good, but not game breaking. Crawford is a bit undersized, but has tremendous speed. He came in to the program as a DB, but switched to offense during his redshirt season. He's returned punts, he's rushed and he's even thrown two passes. He rushed for 115 yards last week against Duke, but struggled to get anything going against the Hokies. The Hoos will look to shut him down as well. FB Maurice Hagens is a good blocker who doesn't touch the ball much, but tends to be dangerous when he does. He's good enough to find a career in the NFL as a blocking back.
The loss of Johnson has put more pressure on Morris. Virginia fans may remember Morris' first career game. After John Kevin-Dolce knocked Jacory Harris out of the game, Morris came in and almost led the Cane's to a 2nd half comeback. Since then, Morris has proven to be a solid QB for the Canes. Last year, he started every game and threw for over 3300 yards and 21 TDs. That put him in the picture as a potential first round pick. He hasn't been quite as good this year, with a 16:11 TD:INT ratio, but he's still on pace for nearly 3000 yards. He's fallen off of scout's radar a bit, but still projects as an NFL QB.
While Duke gets all the press about injured Miami players, Phillip Dorsett has also missed the last few games. He's a tremendous talent, and has been missed. He averages over 20 yards per reception this year and may be back for the game this weekend. With the Hoos secondary suffering from injuries, his return could hurt. The Cane's top 2 receivers, Hurns and Waters are dangerous enough on their own. Hurns has 45 catches for over 800 yards and Waters has 28 catches. TE Clive Walford also has 28 catches and is a dangerous possession receiver. Stacy Doley is a true freshman who is getting more and more PT as the season goes on. He's very dangerous on deep balls and will also return kicks. One of the top WRs in the nation coming out of HS last year, Coley has 4 TDs already and has started the past two games with Dorsett out.
Johnson's talent helped hide a Miami OL that simply isn't very good. Henderson, at LT, is a beast and a potential first round pick. He's the only player on the line that truly stands out. You'll notice that Jared Wheeler and Brandon Linder are listed in several different places on the OL. This is because Miami has no depth on their OL. Luckily, they haven't had many injuries on the OL, or they'd be in trouble. (Henderson missed a couple of games earlier this season, and McDermott missed a few as well, but those two injuries didn't overlap and Wheeler/Linder were able to cover for them.
The Virginia defense has been struggling. What seemed like a potentially dominant unit early in the season has been decimated by injuries and poor play. The run defense, in particular, has been poor. So, Miami will look to establish the run early, looking to open the door for some deep passes. If the Hoos can contain Crawford and the Miami ground game, Morris is capable of picking apart the defense. However, the Hoos secondary has been pretty good, aside from some breakdowns. The underneath stuff has hurt the Hoos, but they haven't really been beaten deep much this year. The deep ball is Morris' strength, and he has the WR talent to get the ball down there, but this is where the Hoos defense is strongest. Stopping the run game will be key, if that doesn't work, nothing else matters.
DE: #71 Anthony Chickillo - 6'4" 277 lb, Junior; #90 Ufomba Kamalu - 6'6" 285 lb, Junior
DT: #96 Curtis Porter - 6'1" 325 lb, Senior; #72 Earl Moore - 6'1" 304 lb, Sophomore
DT: #78 Justin Renfrow - 6'6" 320 lb, Senior; #91 Olsen Pierre - 6'4" 305 lb, Junior; #93 Luther Robinson 6'3" 296 lb, Senior
DE: #51 Shayon Green - 6'3" 264 lb, Senior; #11 David Gilbert - 6'4" 296 lb, Senior
OLB: #34 Thurston Armbrister - 6'3" 233 lb, Junior; #17 Tyriq McCord - 6'3" 235 lb, Sophomore
MLB: #59 Jimmy Gaines - 6'3" 240 lb, Senior; #56 Raphael Kirby - 6'0" 235 lb, Sophomore
OLB: #52 Denzel Perryman - 6'0" 240 lb, Junior; #31 Tyrone Cornileus
CB: #3 Tracy Howard - 5'11" 184 lb, Sophomore; #21 Antonio Crawford - 5'11" 187 lb, Sophomore
S: #2 Deon Bush - 6'1" 203 lb, Sophomore; #30 A.J. Highsmith - 6'0" 208 lb, Senior
S: #26 Rayshawn Jenkins - 6'1" 208 lb, Sophomore; #22 Kacy Rodgers II - 6'2" 212 lb, Senior
CB: #37 Ladarius Gunter - 6'2" 196 lb, Junior; #1 Artie Burns - 6'0" 190 lb, Freshman
The Canes defense has gone downhill very quickly over the past 2 weeks. They've been lit up by Virginia Tech and Duke. Both schools had over 540 total yards against the Canes, coming on the Heels of the 517 yards the Seminoles had. The Hokies, in particular, do not have a very strong offense.
The first thing you might notice on the depth chart is a familiar name on the DL. Justin Renfrow has started the past 5 games for Miami after transferring from Virginia this offseason. Renfrow had already earned his degree, and transferred largely because he felt he wasn't getting the respect he thought he deserved from the Virginia coaching staff. He's playing as a grad student for the Canes, and has 29 tackles and 2 passes defended while playing in every game. That outpaces his career stat line at Virginia.
While Renfrow has been solid, he's still really the weak link on the Canes' DL. The two DEs are 1st and 2nd on the team in sacks and TFLs (Chickollo is first in sacks and Green is first in TFLs). Renfrow has neither a sack nor a TFL. Pierre has started in every game and has 25 tackles and a sack. The Canes are trying to shake some things up, and Pierre may find himself on the bench for the beginning of the game. He'll still see the field, especially in passing situations, where he's a better pass rusher than Renfrow. Porter had previous lost his starting gig to Renfrow, but looks to have earned it back.
The Miami LBs, as usual, are very fast. Perryman leads the team in tackles by a wide margin. He's also T-3 on the team in TFLs. Perryman could potential leave for the NFL after this season, but would be better suited to stay for a 4th year. Gaines is 2nd in tackles, but is likely the slowest of the LBs. Armbrister has exchanged the starting gig with Cornelius a few times this season, and is actually listed on the depth chart as an "OR" with McCord. McCord has largely been used as a pass rush specialist, and with the Hoos looking to establish the run, I expect Armbrister to start. Cornelius is probably the better all around LB, but Armbrister has been making more plays. Regardless, both players will see the field plenty. McCord, as I said, will come in for passing downs.
Miami's defenses are usually led by their DBs. This year's group is high on talent, but low on experience. Howard was perhaps the top player in the nation coming out of HS last year, but was somewhat underwhelming as a true freshman. He's played much better this year and has 3 INTs, but he's not a true shutdown corner. Not yet, anyway. While Bush was the higher rated safety prospect, Jenkins has turned into the real playmaker. Jenkins has started every game this year, and is tied with Howard with 3 INTs. Bush began the season behind a couple of upperclassmen who were largely unimpressive, but has now earned the starting gig. He picked off Jameis Winston in the FSU game, and has totaled 19 tackles, a forced fumble, a sack and a pass defensed to go along with his INT, all in limited playing time. Gunter is a JUCO transfer, so despite being a junior, he arrived in Coral Gables at the same time as his DB-mates. Gunter leads the group in tackles, passes defensed and TFLs. He's also picked off 2 passes. True freshman Artie Burns was one of the top CBs in the nation and has looked pretty good at CB in limited appearances. He's been a beast on special teams. This group looks like they should be the next dominant group of Miami DBs.
Considering how poor the Hoos offense has been of late, Miami's defense should be pretty confident. The Hoos offense ranks 96th in the nation, and has been equally bad running and passing. Watford has regressed after having a good game a few weeks ago against Georgia Tech. His performance on the road this year has been pathetic. Actually, his performance overall has been pathetic, but he's been worse on the road. His 5.2 yards per attempt is 5th worst in the nation (and he has thrown nearly twice as many passes as anybody else in the bottom 10). His 8.9 yards per completion is dead last in the nation (and nearly half a yard lower than the 2nd worst). His passing efficiency is 2nd to last in the nation (and once again, he's thrown twice as many passes as the only guy below him). We've been told that, for better or worse, the team will stick with David Watford at QB. This is, as far as I'm concerned, unconscionable. There is simply no good reason to not give Greyson Lambert a chance with the first team offense, against a first team defense. At this point, we're going into next season with 2 QBs. One who has proven that he is not capable of being an ACC caliber QB, and one who has not been given a chance to prove anything. This is a colossal mistake, and one which is going to end up costing Mike London his job. While game management is his biggest weakness, his inability to handle the QB position runs a close second (actually maybe not all that close, when you think about it).
Simply put, if the Hoos are going to have any chance in this game, it is going to be running the ball. Miami has struggled to contain good running games, and Parks has rushed for almost 800 yards and 10 TDs. Just imagine how good Parks could be if the Hoos had any kind of passing game. If Parks can continue his strong season, and Watford (or Lambert) can find a groove, the Hoos can surprise the Canes. I wouldn't bet on it though.
Miami Special Teams
P: #16 Pat O'Donnell - 6'5" 220 lb, Senior
PK: #18 Matt Goudis - 6'0" 172 lb, Sophomore
PR: Coley, Crawford
KR: Coley, Burns
As always, the Canes have dynamite return teams. Coley and Burns have been fantastic at KO returns following Johnson's injury. Johnson was 10th in the nation, and Coley is 20th. Burns would be 25th if he had enough to qualify. As a team, they are 4th in the nation in KO returns, and Coley took one back for a TD against Savannah State. The PR unit isn't quite as good, ranking 29th in the nation. Coley has been the primary return since Dorsett went down, and he had a PR TD last week against Duke.
The coverage teams aren't quite as good as the return teams. The kick coverage unit is ranked 24th,while the punt coverage unit is ranked 110th. The thing about that poor PR coverage is that Pat O'Donnell is 2nd in the nation in punting. So even though they allow over 13 yards per punt return, they are 54th in the nation in net punting. (All stats courtesy ncaa.org.)
Goudis has been good, missing just once from inside 40 yards. He has a long of 49.
The Hoos are a mess right now. The Canes have been struggling, but they are likely licking their wounds right now, waiting to take advantage of the Hoos. As I said above, it is possible that the Hoos offense can surprise the Canes. It will take a strong performance by the OL and good game from Kevin Parks. But, against a defense that has given up over 1500 yards the past 3 weeks, it is possible.
The Hoos, on the other hand, have to keep their heads up. If they are doubting themselves, Miami is going to crush them. The Hoos may be looking ahead to the Virginia Tech, and in reality that makes sense. A loss here followed by a win over the Hokies would be a much better outcome than a win here followed by a loss to the Hokies. The Canes are favored by 20, despite their 3 game losing streak. If the Canes get their act together and the Hoos can't clean things up, this could get ugly.
Prediction: Canes 52, Hoos 17