Friday, November 21, 2014

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: Saturday, November 22; 7:00


Record against the Canes: 5-6

Last meeting: Miami 45, UVA 26; 11/23/13, Miami

Last weekend: UVA bye; FSU 30, Miami 26

Line: Miami by 5.5

Injury report:


OUT: OG Ryan Doull, C Jackson Matteo, CB Demetrious Nicholson, OT Sadiq Olanrewaju, CB Brandon Phelps, OT Jay Whitmire
DOUBTFUL: S Kelvin Rainey, CB Divante Walker
PROBABLE: DE Trent Corney, LB Mark Hall


OUT: OL Taylor Gadbois, OL Alex Gall, PK Matt Goudis, S Rayshawn Jenkins, OL K.C. McDermott, FB Ronnie Regula, WR Rashawn Scott

It feels like ages since I even thought about football.  With the way things are going, I sort of liked it that way.  With only two games left, the season is right up on the brink.  There are some who think Mike London can save his job by winning the next two and going bowling; I'm not convinced of that, but I am convinced it shouldn't be that way.  My view: let's just win the next two and send London off in halfway decent style, and start over next year.  And if we lose this one, then for God's sake at least beat VT.  But, Miami first.

-- UVA run offense vs. Miami run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 165 carries, 669 yards, 4.1 ypc, 4 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 59 carries, 253 yards, 4.3 ypc, 1 TD

UVA offense:
142.0 yards/game, 3.81 yards/attempt
94th of 128 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

Miami defense:
130.1 yards/game, 3.44 yards/attempt
20th of 128 (national), 6th of 14 (ACC)

Miami's run defense is sort of averagely good; it's not spectacular, but it gets the job done.  The unit is led by linebacker Denzel Perryman in the middle, an excellent player who's headed for an all-ACC nod of some kind.  Miami rotates three linebackers in the other two spots, which limits the numbers for those guys, but they're all quality players; in fact, second on the team in tackles (after Perryman) is Jermaine Grace, the non-starter of the group.

The D-line doesn't have any big stars on it - Anthony Chickillo tends to get more praise from announcers than a guy with three tackles per game deserves - but it's big, particularly Chickillo.  With UVA's offensive line once again looking thin as rice paper, these guys could be in for big days.  I'd worry about Chickillo as a 280-pound senior DE, but I'd also expect our line to get stacked up more often than not.  (Then again, the last time we saw Steve Fairchild he was abandoning the run game with incredible gusto, so we might not even notice.)

-- UVA pass offense vs. Miami pass defense

Greyson Lambert: 122/204, 59.8%; 8 TDs, 9 INTs, 1,275 yards; 6.25 ypa

Top receivers:
Canaan Severin: 34 rec., 441 yards, 4 TDs
Taquan Mizzell: 33 rec., 190 yards, 0 TDs
Kevin Parks: 28 rec., 166 yards, 2 TDs

UVA offense:
241.5 yards/game, 6.54 yards/attempt
91st of 128 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

Miami defense:
192.9 yards/game, 5.92 yards/attempt
14th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

Matt Johns hasn't thrown a pass in two of the last three games and wasn't all that good in the third; is it safe to say we've finally settled on a quarterback?  I think so.  Maybe.  Probably.  I think.

At any rate, the story's the same: Lambert has got to stop throwing interceptions.  Hard to do against Miami.  They're very average in terms of actual INTs, but the whole defense, from front to back, gets involved in batting passes down.  Very active hands, everywhere.  And QBs have been avoiding cornerback Ladarius Gunter like the plague.

Miami also brings a very good pass rush from all corners.  The sack leader is linebacker Thurston Armbrister with five, but most of the Canes' 25 sacks are spread out among the whole defense.  It's a bad sign, seeing an inexperienced offensive line trying to protect a quarterback when they can't be entirely sure where the rush is coming from.

All this adds up to an excellent pass defense, one of the best in the country.  By doing nothing spectacularly but everything well, Miami is a top-15 defense against air assaults.  Opposing teams have at times piled up the yards, but it takes a lot of passes to get there.  UVA's short passing game ought to work out OK, but I don't expect a lot of deeper stuff to be real successful.

-- Miami run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Duke Johnson: 185 carries, 1,343 yards, 7.3 ypc, 10 TDs
Joseph Yearby: 75 carries, 455 yards, 6.1 ypc, 1 TD

Miami offense:
197.0 yards/game, 5.55 yards/attempt
14th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
118.6 yards/game, 3.22 yards/attempt
13th of 128 (national), 4th of 14 (ACC)

Duke Johnson.  He's really good.  And lest you think we'll be out of the woods if Johnson hobbles off the field, the Canes have been using Joseph Yearby to good effect as well.  He's one of those hard-to-find short guys with some built-in power, not unlike Kevin Parks but with more speed.  The Miami O-line has been opening holes all season, and Johnson blows through them pretty hard.

So nothing fancy here.  Miami just wants to line up and let Johnson beat you down, and sends Yearby in to give Johnson a break.  Johnson is one of the toughest guys to tackle in the whole league.  This area of the game, of course, is UVA's one big bright spot, so Miami will find tougher sledding than they're used to; of the three ACC defenses better against the run than UVA, the Canes have only played one, and lost badly.

-- Miami pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Brad Kaaya: 160/267, 59.9%; 22 TDs, 10 INTs, 2,403 yards; 9.00 ypa

Top receivers:
Clive Walford: 33 rec., 522 yards, 7 TDs
Duke Johnson: 25 rec., 310 yards, 2 TDs
Phillip Dorsett: 23 rec., 662 yards, 7 TDs

Miami offense:
245.4 yards/game, 8.76 yards/attempt
9th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
229.2 yards/game, 7.03 yards/attempt
67th of 128 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

Miami looked like they might be set to let transfer Jake Heaps run the offense, but they couldn't resist going with the true freshman Kaaya in the end, and it's paid off.  Kaaya has looked like a veteran this year - it helps to have such a good ground game opening things up for him, but nevertheless Miami has been able to strike deep and be very efficient overall.

Kaaya relies heavily on Clive Walford, one of the Canes' best receivers and their receptions leader, but the real star of the receiving corps is Phillip Dorsett.  With just 23 catches, Dorsett has piled up 662 yards, giving him an average of almost 29 yards a catch.  I mean holy crap.  Not the kind of player you want to be against when you have two starting cornerbacks sidelined.  Tim Harris got torched a few times earlier this year and Miami will be looking to go after him again.

For UVA, this is an area that's gotten progressively worse throughout the year, and this is not the opponent to fix that.  Johnson is also a pretty big part of the passing game (wouldn't you try and get him the ball in space, with momentum?) and I think UVA can slow that down pretty well, but the deep game is going to burn us several times.

-- Favorability ratings

Run offense: 2.5
Pass offense: 2
Run defense: 5.5
Pass defense: 2.5

Average: 3.125

-- Outlook

I can't think of any good reason to be optimistic here.  UVA is simply overmatched, and badly.  Miami's a better team than its 6-4 record; they'll probably finish 8-4 and look a lot closer to where they should be.  They had a little bit of bad luck on the schedule, having to play two very tough crossovers and losing both.  The Canes are a team with no real weaknesses.  UVA has many.  I was hoping that Miami would win last week and set themselves up for a letdown after taking down huge rival FSU, but now they'll just be pissed off after the way they lost.

-- Predictions

-- UVA allows at least three sacks.

-- And throws at least two picks.

-- Duke Johnson is held reasonably in check, averaging no more than 5.5 yards a carry.

-- Kaaya throws at least three passes of 30 yards or more.

Final score: Miami 31, UVA 10

-- Rest of the ACC

Byes: Georgia Tech, NC State

UNC 45, Duke 20 - Thursday - With that game, the ACC CG is set: FSU vs. GT.  I think I had GT last in the Coastal.  Go me.

Virginia Tech @ Wake Forest - 12:30 - I'd like for us to beat Miami and VT to lose to Wake to set up the Bowl Eligibility Bowl in Blacksburg.  I'd also like a billion dollars and a pony.

Syracuse @ Pittsburgh - 3:30 - Pitt is also seeing their bowl eligibility hanging by a thread - and has to play Miami next week.

Louisville @ Notre Dame - 3:30 - Fight for Western Division superiority in the ACC.

Boston College @ Florida State - 3:30 - Potential letdown for FSU here, but the talent gap is too big.

Clemson vs. Georgia State - 3:30 - If sanity ruled the world this kind of game would be in September and FSU would be playing Clemson this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Does this mean you're getting that billion dollars and a pony now?

Anonymous said...

I'd give you a trillion dollars and a Clydesdale to beat Tech.