Weekly preface: While SOTU's weekly coverage is excellent, I thought I'd add an Opponents Watch as a FanPost each week. Let me know if you like the feature and if you have any suggestions for how to make it better, I'll definitely check out the comments. For each team I'll look at their last game, a strength, a weakness, how much Miami should fear them (from 1 being Savannah State to 10 being the 2001 Canes), what I expect when they play Miami (should win, lean win, toss up, lean loss, should lose), and their next game. This is not at a comprehensive preview of each team (dorseyitis already does a fantastic job with that each week); it's designed to be a snapshot of each game down the road. Last week's opponent watch can be found here. Let's get into it.
As a quick note before we get started, reading through last week's post, I felt like it was a bit dry for the length it commanded. I've added some humor to help get you through the 2,000+ words this time around and will continue to do so going forward. I apologize in advance for not being very funny.
About last week:
The Yellow Jackets certainly put a scare into the Sun Life Stadium (somewhat sparse) crowd early, taking a 17-7 lead on the 'Canes early in the second quarter. After a Vad Lee fumble gave the team some life, Miami ran off a 38-6 run, with a Ladarius Gunter pick-six sealing the game for good. Overall, it was a decent showing for the 'Canes, who certainly could have won by 30+ if they held on to the darn ball and if Morris weren't affected by that ankle injury. The bye week really couldn't be coming at a better time for the 'Canes in respect to Morris's ankle. Let's look at how our upcoming opponents fared last weekend and how it effects us moving forward.
AT NORTH CAROLINA (1-4, 0-2 ACC)
Last week: The Tar Heels' surprising fall from Coastal contenders to in danger of missing a bowl game entirely continued in a 27-17 road loss at Virginia Tech which wasn't even as close as the score indicated (the Tar Heels scored a meaningless TD with one minute left on the clock). That said, the Tar Heels actually outplayed the Hokies for most of the game even without starting QB Bryn Renner; they out-gained VT in first downs (18-14) and total offense (376 yards to 341). The difference in the game was turnovers (minus-3 differential) and penalties (11 for 71 yards).
Biggest strength: The passing offense remains the best part of this team, even without Renner. Backup Marquise Williams had a pretty good day (23/35, 277 yards, 2 TDs, 2 picks) against an outstanding defense and the Tar Heels' attack ranks 25th in the nation at 293 yards per game overall.
Biggest weakness: While their maligned rushing defense held up against VT, their even more maligned rushing offense couldn't muster much of anything. Carolina picked up just 99 yards rushing on 38 carries, good for an average of 2.6 yards per carry with a long of eleven. Yes, their longest run of the game was 11 yards. This is somewhat mitigated by the strength of VT's defense, but come on, man.
Fear level (1-10): Because they played VT even yardage-wise, this team could potentially be competitive on the road and at night, but I still wouldn't put them higher than a 4.
Outcome of matchup for UM: It's a conference game, it's on the road and it's a night. A game like this should never be taken for granted, even if it seems like a sure thing. Both teams have a bye week going into the game, meaning 12 days to prepare, so coaching will play a huge role. All signs point to the 'Canes, but remember Virginia last year? Let's just be a bit cautious. Lean win
Next game: BYE
WAKE FOREST (3-3, 1-2 ACC)
Last week: NC State must be pretty awful because the same Demon Deacons who lost handily to Boston College beat the Wolfpack in Winston-Salem, 28-13. Like with the UNC-VT game, though, the numbers were closer than the score; first downs (23-21 Wake) and total offense (382-372) were essentially even. While it's certainly nice for Wake to pick up a conference win in front of their home fans, this certainly is far from a harbinger of 2013 glory.
Biggest strength: The passing defense continues to be the best asset the Demon Deacons can deploy, allowing just 257 yards through the air Saturday to rise to 32nd nationally (from 37th last week) at 206 yards per game.
Biggest weakness: The offense continues to be anemic and the main problem is on the ground. At just 110 yards per game, the Wake ground attack ranks 112th nationally. While their passing attack is a bit better (QB Tanner Price actually has deceivingly solid numbers: 57.8%, 6.9 YPA, 9 TD, 3 INT), it's no powerhouse, ranking 85th.
Fear level (1-10): Hey, they won a conference game! Still a 2.5.
Outcome of matchup for UM: This remains the easiest game remaining on the schedule and an nice tune-up for the next week's opponent, (gulp) Florida State. Should win
Next game: BYE
AT #6 FLORIDA STATE (4-0, 2-0 ACC)
Last week: OH MY GOD DOES THAT SAY 63 WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST DO TO MARYLAND OH MY GOD
Biggest strength: EVERYTHING! JAMEIS WINSTON YPA WATCH: 11.7!!!! WHAT?!?!
Biggest weakness: JUST RUN AWAY FROM TALLAHASSEE WHILE YOU CAN!
Fear level (1-10): SERIOUSLY. RUN. 10,000.
Outcome of matchup for UM: I DON'T EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT, MAN. Please take it easy on us, 'Noles.
Next game: BYE, SO THEY'RE GOING TO SCRIMMAGE THE DENVER BRONCOS AND WIN 688-2 (PITY SAFETY AT THE END OF THE GAME)
#24 VIRGINIA TECH (4-1, 1-0 ACC)
Last week: VT beat a shorthanded North Carolina team 27-17 at Lane Stadium. QB Logan Thomas had a very good performance for the second straight week, completing 19-of-28 passes for 10.5 yards (!!) per attempt, 3 touchdowns and no picks. Considering their defense, the Hokies are a scary team if their offense starts to get going. However, while Thomas seems to be hitting his stride, the running game is going backwards (see biggest weakness). The defense had a bit of a down day against UNC compared to its stellar standard this season, but one 376-yard performance by North Carolina does not a fraud make.
Biggest strength: Even after allowing 100 yards more than their season average the UNC, the Hokies' defense still ranks 5th in the nation overall at an unearthly 264 yards per game. Both their rushing and passing defenses sit in the Top 15. This is a team that's now played five offenses that range from solid to great (in chronological order: Alabama, East Carolina, Marshall, Georgia Tech, North Carolina) so this defense is 100% legit.
Biggest weakness: Logan Thomas is finally figuring it out, but the rushing defense is regressing hard. Two weeks ago they gained just 55 yards on the ground (a flat 2 yards a pop) against a GT rushing defense Miami repeatedly gashed on Saturday and followed that up with a ghastly 48 yards (at 1.4 per carry) against a woeful UNC rush defense (they rank 100th in the nation even after shutting down the Hokies). Overall, this offense is completely one-dimensional and ranks 109th in the nation at just 330 yards per game. Keep in mind they failed to put up even 400 yards against a team that East Carolina rolled for 55 points and 603 yards. Yeesh.
Fear level (1-10): The defense seems to be by far the best in the Coastal and Logan Thomas is coming out of his slumber; this offense is still so bad though. I'll bump them up slightly to a 6 from last week's 5.5, if only for Logan Thomas's slight improvement.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Since both teams have now beaten Georgia Tech, this game will likely decide the Coastal Division. Tough break for Miami that it comes just one week after FSU; VT will play Boston College the week before. While this is concerning, Miami clearly has more talent offensively and the defense is definitely good enough to shut down a bad offense. It should be a win, but a post-FSU hangover is possible. Lean win
Next game: vs. Pittsburgh (3-1)
AT DUKE (3-2, 0-2 ACC)
Last week: BYE
Biggest strength: While their offense only ranks 43th nationally, Duke boasts a balanced attack, with QB Brandon Connette averaging 8.7 (!!) yards per attempt (for reference, that's more than a half yard better than Braxton Miller this season). On the ground, the Blue Devils have a two-headed attack, with Jela Duncan averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 47 touches and Josh Snead 6.3 on 39.
Biggest weakness: The rushing defense is bad, giving up 169 yards per game, good for 78th in the nation.
Fear level (1-10): No change after a bye week. 3.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Even though it's a road game, Miami has a Duke of their own that should be able to run all over...well, Duke. Should win
Next game: vs. Navy (3-1)
VIRGINIA (2-3, 0-1 ACC)
Last week: Wow, the Cavs gave up 506 yards of total offense and lost to a MAC team by three touchdowns at home, 48-27. Granted, it's a 5-1 MAC team, but their next best win is...Toledo? I don't know, you tell me. They also lost to North Texas, so this squad is no Northern Illinois (who isn't even very good anyway, but this is not the right place for me to get started on that). All in all, Virginia gave up 48 points, 506 yards, and 29 first downs, and went full Gators with a turnover margin of minus-4. Against a MAC team. Not a good day in Charlottesville.
Biggest strength: Last week in this space I talked about how their defense was pretty solid and the bright spot on a boring team. Specifically I lauded their 8th-ranked pass defense and said I expected it to drop a little bit, but still end up in the Top 30 by season's end. I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm an idiot, guys. Giving up 346 passing yards to Ball State dropped their passing defense to 21st already; I don't even want to know what Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston are going to do to this squad (OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP SO MUCH BLOOD). Oh right, this is supposed to be the strength section. Too bad; when you lose to a MAC team by 21 points, this is what happens to your strength section.
Biggest weakness: Surely this must be the defense that gave up the much detailed pointsplosion (KABOOM!), right? Cavaliers fans certainly wish that were the case. Instead, the most poorly rated unit is by far the offense, which ranks 104th in overall yardage and 112th in passing yardage. When this unit takes the field at Sun Life Stadium, avert your eyes.
Fear level (1-10): A loss to a MAC team by 21 puts you down with South Florida at a 2. I'm going to toss an extra half-point the Cavs way because I'm feeling charitable and they've had a rough week. 2.5.
Outcome of matchup for UM: UVA has Wake Forest to thank for this game not being the most certain win remaining on the 'Canes schedule. I'm not even going to include the whole bit about "remember what happened last year!" because this team is just awful. Should win
Next game: at Maryland (4-1)
AT PITTSBURGH (3-1, 2-1 ACC)
Last week: BYE
Biggest strength: It's hard to identify any solid strengths with Pitt, everything is average or worse. QB Tom Savage does have a solid 9.6 YPA, so that's something, but it should regress somewhat during the season because it's quite rare for a QB to spend a whole season up there, let along Tom Savage.
Biggest weakness: The rushing offense is pretty ghastly, averaging just 140 yards per game and landing the Panthers 88th nationally. This is far more due to lost yardage due to sacks than anything with the ground game though; feature back James Conner has accumulated 353 yards on 62 touches, good for a healthy 5.7 a pop.
Fear level (1-10): Stays steady after the bye week. 4.
Outcome of matchup for UM: It's a conference road game, so nothing should be taken for granted. That said, Miami seems like a pretty obvious pick here. Lean win
Next game: BYE
5-0. Ranked #13 in the country. Full speed ahead, GO 'CANES. (And feel free to vote in the poll below to express just how much Jameis Winston terrifies you. And if he doesn't, just watch this and commence freaking out.)