Thursday, November 21, 2013
game preview: Miami
Date/Time: Saturday, November 23; 12:00
Line: Miami by 20
Record against the Canes: 5-5
Last meeting: UVA 41, Miami 40; 11/10/12, Charlottesville
Last weekend: UVA bye; Duke 48, Miami 30
OUT - OL George Adeosun, CB Demetrious Nicholson, TE Mario Nixon, WR Canaan Severin, S Wil Wahee
DOUBTFUL - None
QUESTIONABLE - None
PROBABLE - CB Maurice Canady, CB Kelvin Rainey, DT Brent Urban
OUT - DB Artie Burns, WR Philip Dorsett, LB Alex Figueroa, RB Duke Johnson, OL Hunter Knighton
DOUBTFUL - None
QUESTIONABLE - None
PROBABLE - None
(As with Georgia Tech, I'm quite sure that Miami is perfectly healthy aside from the players who can't go at all. No bumps, bruises, or sprains to be found.)
So I guess I have to go write about football some more. I was sort of enjoying the little hiatus. That's only half a joke. This has been the kind of season that really makes you question your involvement in the team and wondering if your Saturdays wouldn't be better spent doing almost anything else. You'll forget about all that next August, of course, but for now, sanity and happiness dictate that you spend the time putting up the Christmas lights or something.
-- UVA run offense vs. Miami run defense
Kevin Parks: 184 carries, 796 yards, 4.3 ypc, 10 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 47 carries, 267 yards, 5.7 ypc, 1 TD
152.7 yards/game, 3.67 yards/attempt
98th of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)
172.5 yards/game, 4.19 yards/attempt
67th of 125 (national), 11th of 14 (ACC)
I suppose if there's any drama remaining in this season, Kevin Parks's quest for 1,000 yards might provide some. He's 204 yards away with two games left, so it's not totally out of reach. It's going to be hard, though; VT's defense is VT's defense, and Miami's isn't too shabby either. It's a fairly remarkable stat that the 11th-best run defense in the conference is just a shade outside the top half nationally. (And the conference's 10th-best is well inside it.)
Miami hadn't allowed a game of over 200 rushing yards to a non-Georgia Tech team until just last week, when Duke shredded them. Even if Duke is 8-2, nobody wants to allow that kind of performance against them, so this might have the makings of a classic motivated rebound game.
Leading the defense is linebacker Denzel Perryman, with 91 tackles this season; another linebacker, Jimmy Gaines, is second with 64. But the guy who probably presents the most threat to UVA's porous offensive line is defensive end Shayon Green, who has 7.5 run-game TFLs. He'll likely present a particular threat to David Watford's running attempts.
So I don't expect to see much room. Consider the Duke game a blip; that game alone caused the Canes to drop, like, 30-odd places in the national run-defense rankings. (Thus illustrating the dangers of relying too heavily on them, even this late in the season.) The UVA run game is a little better than it appears, because Watford is often sacked and has poor running instincts. Handing it off has always been a more productive play. Still, I'd be surprised to see Parks top 70 yards.
-- UVA pass offense vs. Miami pass defense
David Watford: 221/379, 58.3%; 1,974 yards, 7 TDs, 12 INTs; 5.21 yards/attempt
Jake McGee: 36 rec., 305 yards, 2 TDs
Kevin Parks: 34 rec., 305 yards, 1 TD
212.6 yards/game, 5.0 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)
228.0 yards/game, 7.4 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 12th of 14 (ACC)
Baghdad Bob got ahold of the UVA Football tweetster account this week and built an infographic that used some stats (almost exclusively his 221 completions) to try to make David Watford look like the Next Coming. Naturally it was met with mockery and disdain, and that was just from the UVA fans. Who kindly pointed out the little issue of having won only two games.
Watford is likely to rack up a whole bunch more completions this week, which will lead mainly to another five-touchdown loss and an updated infographic. But Miami has been complicit lately in pass defense. You might expect Jameis Winston and perhaps even Bryn Renner to have terrific games; you wouldn't ever peg Logan Thomas for 25-of-31 for 366 yards. That's a surprise and a half.
From a playmaking standpoint, Miami actually does well against the pass. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins and CB Tracy Howard have three picks each, although nobody has more than five break-ups. Nobody has more than 3.5 sacks, either, but overall the Canes have 26, which is good enough for 25th in the country.
But they sure do allow completions. So Watford will probably rack them up. They might all be screens, swing passes, and a heavy dependence on Jake McGee, but the completions will probably be there. At this point, though, that yards-per-attempt is what it is. I had hopes that might creep up to the mid-sixes range by the end of the season, but no. I also had hopes Greyson Lambert might start in order to give him a small head-start on the inevitable repeat competition next year, but also no. Mike London is hopelessly tied to making the exact opposite mistake from previous seasons.
-- Miami run offense vs. UVA run defense
Dallas Crawford: 96 carries, 446 yards, 10 TDs
Gus Edwards: 40 carries, 220 yards, 3 TDs
Miami run offense:
180.0 yards/game, 5.16 yards/attempt
24th of 125 (national), 4th of 14 (ACC)
UVA run defense:
183.2 yards/game, 4.55 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)
Brent Urban is back! Duke Johnson is out! That alone ought to tilt the matchup in UVA's favor.... or might have, if we'd been writing this five or six weeks ago. Miami still has a stable of solid backs; Dallas Crawford has done a good job this season when playing in relief of Johnson, and Gus Edwards is an absolute load at 6'2", 225, and will probably see his field time increase as time goes on; particularly when Miami is not playing from behind. Which they're not likely to do on Saturday.
Still - this game might be a little petri dish of sorts. UVA's slide from mediocre but still reasonably hopeful to pitiful oblivion coincided neatly with Urban's injury, sustained against Maryland. Losing Demetrious Nicholson had something to do with that too, but defensive line play hasn't been even close to the same without Urban. It'll be interesting to see if his presence in the lineup will help prevent those six-consecutive-touchdown runs our opponents like to go on.
I'm not really that hopeful, of course; when Urban was playing, the team was much more fully invested in the outcome of the game. He'll be fired up and ready to go, but have his teammates checked out some? Probably. And I doubt we're looking at the 100% real deal here; the fact that Urban can play doesn't mean he's in preseason shape. I expect this game to still be fairly ugly in this department.
-- Miami pass offense vs. UVA pass defense
Stephen Morris: 156/263, 59.3%; 2,358 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs; 8.97 yards/attempt
Allen Hurns: 45 rec., 839 yards, 5 TDs
Herb Waters: 28 rec., 405 yards, 5 TDs
278.2 yards/game, 9.2 yards/attempt
8th of 125 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)
234.3 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt
69th of 125 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)
Another key returner for UVA's defense: Maurice Canady, coming back from a medical issue that Doug Doughty reported to be kidney bleeding. Yeah, OK, I guess it's alright if you sit out for that. Can't really say all is well with his likely return, though; UVA faces one of the more potent passing offenses they've faced all year.
UVA's challenge starts with a senior quarterback, who's occasionally prone to throwing interceptions, but outweighs them with real production. Stephen Morris's favorite target by far is Allen Hurns, a deadly big-play threat; he averages 18.6 yards a catch and has a pair of 80-yard TDs this season. Herb Waters and Stacy Coley both command attention as well and keep the field open for Hurns. And Clive Walford is a very good tight end, rounding out Morris's ammo supply.
If Canady weren't coming back I'd look at Drequan Hoskey and Tim Harris trying to cover this gang and mark down about 60 points for Miami. UVA can more effectively use a nickel package now - Kelvin Rainey was doing an OK job as the nickel corner, but the added depth will be much appreciated. Still, this bodes ill. I mean, we're kind of jaded to the idea anymore, but Miami does a really nice job of protecting Morris and for every good play our guys make, Miami will probably turn it around with a 25-yarder. I suspect Morris will find a way to deliver the ball to Anthony Harris's hands once at some point, but it's not like that'll be a huge obstacle.
-- Favorability ratings
UVA run offense: 3
UVA pass offense: 2
UVA run defense: 4
UVA pass defense: 1.5
A commenter this week called Miami a team in "free-fall." While the optimism about our opponent is admirable, if a three-game losing streak is a free-fall I don't want to know what a seven-game losing streak is. Speaking of streaks, UVA actually happens to be on a three-game streak of the winning variety against the Canes. We're 5-2 against them since 2006, and 2-1 on the road; Miami seems to be the exception to the rule that UVA teams blow chunks on the road. But you don't have a historically bullshit season like this one without breaking every pattern of success you once had. If our opponent is in free-fall, we're the downy-soft pillowy cushion at the bottom.
-- Prediction summary
-- David Watford has between 29 and 43 completions, giving him his second-most in a game this year. I reserve the right to prorate this out in case of early Greyson Lambert showing.
-- Lambert attempts 10+ passes.
-- Dallas Crawford rushes for over 100 yards in Duke Johnson's absence.
-- Ant Harris gets another interception.
-- Stephen Morris tops 300 passing yards.
-- Miami scores at least one touchdown of 65 yards or greater, through the air.
Final score: Miami 45, UVA 13
-- Rest of the ACC
North Carolina vs. Old Dominion - 12:00 - ODU seems bound and determined to play as many of our recruiting rivals as they can.
Duke @ Wake Forest - 12:00 - Duke needs this one to stay in contention for the ACC CG, unless they think counting on UVA to beat VT next week is a viable strategy.
Clemson vs. The Citadel - 12:00 - As you'll see in a few lines here, the ACC is starting to pick up on the SEC strategy of waiting til the end of the season to play the cupcake games.
NC State vs. East Carolina - 12:30 - The Pack are likely to finish this season 5th out of 5 I-A teams in the state.
Pittsburgh @ Syracuse - 12:30 - The Newcomer Bowl. Winner goes actual bowling; loser probably won't.
Georgia Tech vs. Alabama A&M - 1:30 - You see what I mean about the cupcakes.
Florida State vs. Idaho - 3:30 - You still see what I mean about the cupcakes.
Boston College @ Maryland - 3:30 - Jockeying for position on the bowl selection pecking order.
Bye: Virginia Tech