Thursday, October 30, 2008

game preview: Miami

TV: Raycom

History against the Hurricanes: 2-3

Last matchup: UVA 48, Miami 0 in Miami

Team records: UVA 5-3 (3-1), Miami 5-3 (2-2)

Last week: UVA beat Georgia Tech 24-17; Miami beat Wake Forest 16-10

Line: UVA by 2

Miami season preview here.

Injury reports:


OUT: LB Aaron Clark, LB Cam Johnson, DE Zane Parr, FB Keith Payne

DOUBTFUL: TE Mark Ambrose, RB Max Milien

QUESTIONABLE: LB Antonio Appleby

PROBABLE: DE Matt Conrath, NT Nick Jenkins, WR Kevin Ogletree, K Yannick Reyering


OUT: LB Jordan Futch, DE Eric Moncur, S Randy Phillips, S Vaughn Telemaque

DOUBTFUL: WR Leonard Hankerson

QUESTIONABLE: LB Darryl Sharpton

PROBABLE: QB Robert Marve, RB Lee Chambers, DB Joseph Nicholas

So last year's game, of course, was pretty epic. You might remember it. Check that - you almost certainly do. 48-0 is a good old-fashioned woodshedding no matter how you slice it, but then there's these to consider:

- We had never ever won a game in the state of Florida.
- It was the last Miami Hurricanes game in the Orange Bowl, and all the 'Canes luminaries were standing around the sidelines with looks of disgust on their faces, like they had swallowed a lemon dipped in turpentine.
- It was also the worst shutout loss Miami had ever been dealt at home.

It was historical in all the ways the 'Canes would have preferred not to make history. Miami coach Randy Shannon claims his team isn't using that game as motivation.



- Keep the foot on the gas pedal. That means two things. One, don't let the emotions from last year carry into this one. I don't care what Shannon says. They've probably wallpapered the locker room with 48-0 and had 48-0 scrawled on every page of the playbook. They remember. That motivation will make the first quarter or so dangerous. Two, it also means don't let the ACC Coastal out of the chokehold we have it in. This is the sort of game I hate - we can't really gain anything by winning, but we sure can lose out by losing. We control our destiny, but a loss will hand that destiny over to the Canes. Whatever mindset the team carried into the last four games must come out onto the field behind the Cavalier tomorrow as well.

- Running game. I know, I know, dead horse. It's been on and off. It showed up on the road against one of the best defensive teams in the land; a week earlier, it failed to pass muster. ESPN's Ms. Heather has the curious observation that Miami's run defense has been shaky and they will need to figure out how to stop Cedric Peerman, but they have the 26th best run defense in the country. That's not exactly bad. My feeling is that it doesn't matter what Miami's run defense does, it matters whether or not we bring our blocking shoes on Saturday. If we do, Miami's defense will be seeing this in their nightmares.

- Adaptability on defense. Robert Marve is the starter, but he's ailing just a little bit, and Shannon likes to platoon a little bit anyway, meaning Jacory Harris will get his snaps. They're not actually all that different in their running ability, but Harris actually has somewhat better passing numbers. In any case the defense can't get thrown off their game when they see a different guy trot out under center.

- Defensive line has got to pick up the slack for the linebackers. Not that the 'backers are playing badly, but just look how many of them are on the injury report. No Cam Johnson this week, and it's anyone's guess if we see Appleby.


- Get tired. There's no real standout player on Miami's offense. Graig Cooper's pretty decent, but a notch below the best ACC backs. Miami's strength is their depth. They do a good job of spreading the ball around to a lot of different receivers (9 of their players have a touchdown catch), and their running attack can come from a lot of different directions (8 players have rushing TDs). Cooper is the workhorse, but not the only horse. Their ability to rotate in a lot of different players means they should be fresh even in the late stages of the game.

- Let the game become a kicking matchup. If there's one place on the roster Miami's got a clearcut advantage it's the kicker. Reyering's been aching recently, and Miami's Matt Bosher is one of the best kickers in the land. He's 12/13 with two 50+ yarders. If you tell me the score will be 12-9, I will say "uh-oh." Gotta get touchdowns.


Honestly, I think we should win. Should. We are not good enough yet to make me wholly confident that we will. But I think we match up very well against this team. Their offense just doesn't strike fear in me. Nobody that you can really say, watch out for this guy. In Hall and Dowling we have one of the top corner tandems in the conference, and they should be able to shut down the Cane receivers. Their defense is solid but unspectacular - they've come up with just three INTs all year. They have some players that can get to the quarterback, but we've clearly got them beat in that category, and our O-line does a yeoman's job of protecting Verica. And they've been missing Eric Moncur for a while now, which creates a weak link in their D-line.

So I think we'll win. The home crowd has our back, and we've got the talent. Like us, Miami is looking to get bowl-eligible with a win today, but they've largely feasted on weak competition (yes, I know one of their wins was Duke, shut up) and wins like 20-14 over UCF don't inspire.

My guess is Verica will be his usual surgical self and roll up another 270 or so passing yards in a win.


This events of this week can't really sort things out any better than they are now. But if certain teams win (Miami, Georgia Tech) they can throw a flaming turdbag into the pecking order.

Florida State @ Georgia Tech, 3:30
Duke @ Wake Forest, 3:30
Clemson @ Boston College, 3:30

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