UVa Football Preview: Miami

You don’t realize how stress free bye weeks are until you have one. Last Saturday was very, very relaxing, outside of watching the Hoos basketball team in Charlotte slowly pull away from Davidson. But now there is no stopping til the end, which is thankfully only a week and a half away. This week is the calm before the cold front with Miami. And while Miami hasn’t been the same since the FSU game, there is little to think that London can keep his perfect mark against the Canes.

Miami History

The Hoos and the Canes have a very short history together. The first time these two teams got together was 1996 in the Carquest Bowl, where the Canes prevailed 31-21. We wouldn’t meet again until Miami joined the ACC in 2004, and have played each other every year, compiling a split 5-5 record. Interesting fact is regardless of Mike London’s struggles, he has defeated the Hurricanes each of his 3 years, with all 3 being instant classics. 2010 saw Virginia go up big early and hold on late despite current UM QB Stephen Morris burning his redshirt in that game 24-19 for Mike’s first ACC win. 2011 Saw the Cardiac Cavs v2.0 go down to Coral Gables and do the same thing: establishing a lead and holding on late for a 28-21 win. Last season was…well, it was insane. A game that was back and forth for 60 minutes, ending in a McGee TD with 6-seconds left in the game for a 41-40 win.

Miami Now

It has been a tale of two seasons for the Canes. From August through October, Miami went 7-0, taking out teams like Florida, GT, and UNC. Then came November and their date with FSU, where they hung around for a half before getting trounced 41-14. Since then, they have dropped games to both VT at home and Duke on the road and now stand at 7-3, with real outside shot at the Coastal.

Offense

Al Golden is running a pro-set offense, but with the exclusion of Duke Johnson, their everything running back, look for a more pass first mindset. Stephen Morris is back for his senior year, and while he is not putting up the numbers he once was (59% completion, 16 TD, 11 INT), he is still has a great arm and mobile when he needs to be. Fellow senior Allen Hurns (839 yards, 5 TDs) anchors a young receiving core with Herb Waters (406 yards, 5 TDs) and Stacy Coley (405 yards, 4 TDs). Filling in for Duke has been Dallas Crawford (446, 10 TDs), who is more of a power back than an outside runner.

Defense

This 4-3 defense is quite confusing. They started the year very well against some different look offenses, but has allowed Duke and Virginia Tech to run over them at will. The DEs are the heart of this defense with Anthony Chickillo (40 tackles, 7 TFL, 3.5 sack) and Shayon Green (57 tackles, 10 TFL, 3 sack). OLB Denzel Perryman (91 tackles, 4 TFL, 1.5 sack) reminds me of Steve Greer in that he seems to be in on every play. But UVa eyes will be on troubled ex-Cav Justin Renfrow (29 tackles) who decided to attend grad school at Miami and finish his eligibility there.

How UVa Covers

1.       Pressure Morris. While he might say he is 100% better after his leg injury, he has been super ‘picky’ lately, which means Harris and the Hoos will have a great shot at some quick turnovers and good field position.

2.       Win the TOP. While Harris has been great at Safety, the rest of the secondary is real banged up, and Miami knows that. Sustained drives can keep the UM offense off the field and give the corners some rest.

3.       Lambert time. At this point, it’s time to get some seasoning on the rookie, and Miami would be a great place to get started. Not saying he would start, but reps for Watford are meaningless now, especially if we are down 21 in the second half.

Outlook

I have been blasting Vegas for not putting up realistic lines this year, but the UVa +20 is spot on. I think that it won’t be close early and the Hoos and Canes trade scores late. Prediction: Miami 42, UVa 21.

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

UVa Football Preview: Miami

miamiTwo weeks for Georgia Tech. One week for NC State. 5 days for Miami.

The history of the Thursday night college football game dates back to when ESPN started to become a household name. The philosophy is there: baseball is winding down, basketball and hockey operate a small market on the week nights, and the NFL keeps their games on Sunday and Monday. So ESPN needed a way to drive the crazy college fan to TV sets in September and October, and here we are.

Virginia has played some great Thursday night games and some pretty bad ones at well. In 2000, UVa got blanked at Georgia Tech 35-0 in a game that saw the Cavs give up 627 yards to the Jackets and the 2002 season saw Marques Hagans get stopped at the 1 yard line in a 35-29 defeat to Colorado State. But Thursday has made for some of the greatest games in UVa history. It begins and ends with 1997 FSU and UVa in a 33-28 victory for the first ACC defeat for the Noles. 1998 saw the Hoos travel to Auburn and defeat the Tigers 16-0 in Tommy Bowden’s only shutout at home. And 2006 saw UVa shut out UNC 23-0 with Howie Long and John Elway in attendance.

The history with this week’s opponent is just as storied. Last year, Virginia earned their first ACC victory under London in a 24-19 win. But the biggest win against the Canes came in 2007, where the Hoos blanked Miami 48-0 to close out the Orange Bowl.

Think the Canes remember that game. Well, Miami gets another shot at the Hoos this week as we travel to the state of Florida for this ACC matchup. Miami comes into this game with a similar 4-3 record, but 2-2 in the ACC. The only losses were to Maryland by 8, undefeated Kansas State by 4, and at Virginia Tech by 3. They have turned on the gas the past two weeks, defeating UNC 30-24 and besting GT 24-7. So what will UVa expect to see when the Hoos get to Miami. Here is our rundown.

Coaching

The Hoos will see the second of three first time ACC coaches this week with Al Golden. Most people around here know his story. He played for Joe Pa and George Welsh as a tight end for Penn State. Two years later Welsh brought him on the UVa staff as a Grad Assistant in 1994 to 1996. Golden returned as the DC under Al Groh from 2001 to 2005 and was instrumental in building up his 3-4 defense. The dream has alway been for him to return to Penn State to coach one day, but as Joe keeps rolling along, he found himself taking a job at Temple, where he turned around a constant doormat into a MAC powerhouse. That job gave him the leverage to apply for the Miami job in the off season when Shannon was dismissed from the U and has endured the off field suspensions to put the Canes in a good position to challenge for the Coastal title.

Offense

No more schemes this week from Miami, just pure Pro-Set formations and a power running game complemented by a vertical passing game. The national stats don’t reflect their efficientcy at this time (80th in passing; 62 in rushing; 54th in scoring), but they have not scored less than 24 points in any game this season (make a note of that for later). Through all the suspensions, Jacory Harris is still the starter in Coral Gables with Stephen Morris being a more that apt backup if for some reason, I don’t know, he gets knocked out of the game. Heh heh. One thing Harris has done this year is cut down on the interceptions as he is 90/145, 1244 yards, 12 TDs, and only 4 INTs.

That consistency in the passing game has allowed future star Lamar Miller to shine in the running game. He has 799 yards and 6 TDs  as only a Sophomore and has a burst through the line of scrimmage that has buckled the knees of most opponents. In the passing game 3 wide receivers have over 280 yards on the season with Tommy Streeter (428, 5 TD), Travis Benjamin (350, 3 TD), and Allen Hurns (286, 3 TD) all eclipsing that mark. Look for a very balanced attack which will definitely test the Hoos base defense.

Defense

Another mirror image of UVa on this side of the ball, as the Canes will run a straight up 4-3 defense. Miami’s strength this year has come from their Linebackers and Safeties, with SLB Sean Spence, MLB James Gaines, FS James Gaines, and SS Vaughn Telemaque leading the way in coverage. They also get very good pressure from both defensive ends Anthony Chickillo and Marcus Robinson, who combine for 11.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks. There is some vulnerability up the middle and on the edge, but we know which group the Hoos would like to exploit. This is the 31st ranked scoring defense this year, by far the best group Virginia has seen to date. Look for them to bring the pressure off the edge, with the linebackers running stunts up the middle to stop the run. The Virginia offensive line will have to be on point Thursday night to really open some holes for those Hoos running backs.

Special Teams

Ugh. Not much better here. Jake Wieclaw is 8/9 on field goals this season, and only missed a 47 yarder against GT. Dalton Botts averages around 41 yards a punt, and has dropped 4 inside 20 versus 2 touchbacks. Solid all around.

How Virginia Wins

First the Hoos will have to catch Miami on an off night, which they really haven’t done all year. Running the ball consistently and with a 6+ yard average per run is a must. Also, finding a way to score in the 2nd half is a given. And finally, making sure the Rocco or Watford is standing upright for most of the game, especially in the passing game (or whatever we call it). Miami doesn’t beat themselves up much with penalties, turnovers, or red-zone scoring opportunities, but the Hoos will have to bring those things into play if they want to stick around in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

How Virginia Loses

Well it really won’t come from the defensive side of the ball as I think the Hoos can keep Miami to around 24 to 28 points for the game, but scoring is the issue on everyones mind. Miami is very balanced between quarters and half scoring, so if the Hoos can’t open it up in the 1st half, it will be a long last 30 minutes of the game. Virginia figured out how to pick off Harris last year, so they need to turn Miami into a passing team. If Lamar gets rolling, the Hoos will wear out late and the Canes will turn possessions into points. Lastly, Miami is a 44% 3rd down conversion team, but if they are north of .500 for the game, it will aid in that point we just made above.

Prediction

Hoos come in as a 14.5 point dog, which is better than I would of thought for the offensive output we have had the past 3 games, but probably helped out by the fact the defense is keeping the Hoos in the game. Like I stated above, I think we can hold them to 28 points, but if we help them out like we did to the last 2 opponents with pick 6s, it will stop us dead in our tracks. Look for a game similar to the NC State game on a short week, where we keep up early, but fail to score late. Miami 28, UVa 13.

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

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