Hey guys, I'm a freshman student here at the U and I'm pretty new to the SOTU community. I've blogged a bit in the past and one feature that I've seen elsewhere is a weekly Opponent Watch post, looking down the schedule and checking in to see how the upcoming teams are doing. While SOTU's weekly coverage is excellent, I thought I'd add an opponent watch as a FanPost each week. Going forward I'll definitely post this in the middle of the week, but it's on a Thursday night this week (I posted it so late tonight so I could wait for the outcome for the GT-VT game). Let me know if you like the feature (there's a poll below) 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 (this week I'll do season to date since this is the first one), 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. Let's get into it.
AT SOUTH FLORIDA (0-3, 0-0 BIG EAST)
Season to date: Guh. It all started very poorly for the Bulls with a 53-21 loss to FCS foe McNeese State and hasn't gotten too much better with a 21-6 loss at Michigan State and a 28-10 loss at home to FAU (ouch). The Bulls have employed three passers already this season and they've combined to complete 37.4% of their passes for 4.45 yards per attempt. Defensively, it hasn't been much better. Bulls fans, hang in there. It gets better. I mean, it has to, right?
Biggest strength: Despite their anemic passing game, the Bulls can call a prolific running back their own. Marcus Shaw is averaging a full 7 (!!) yards per carry on 57 touches. This should regress to the mean at some point, but it's still going to be quite a healthy clip.
Biggest weakness: Yeah, it's that passing game. Yikes.
Fear level (1-10): Since Savannah State would be a 1, I'll set this at 2. The rushing attack is prolific, but the defense is pretty bad at best and the passing attack is a pile of trash set on fire.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Should win
Next game: vs. #15 Miami (3-0)
GEORGIA TECH (3-1, 2-1 ACC)
Season to date: The Yellow Jackets won their first two games easily, 70-0 over FCS opponent Elon and 38-14 at hapless Duke. A stirring comeback at home against UNC landed them a third straight win, 28-20. Their undefeated season came to an end on Thursday Night Football against a stingy Virginia Tech defense in a 17-10 loss.
Biggest strength: I certainly don't need to tell you that this is obviously their rushing offense, a unit that ranked #4 nationally going into the Virginia Tech game (new rankings were not immediately available after the game).
Biggest weakness: A propensity to fall behind early. The Jackets went down 14-0 in consecutive weeks at home against UNC and Virginia Tech, respectively. Against Carolina they were able to dig out of it with a dominant second half. Not so much against the Hokies.
Fear level (1-10): The defense is much improved and the offense is always difficult to defend. They aren't an elite team, but they're pretty scary to play on any given Saturday. Don't let a dud against an excellent VT defense fool you, the Jackets have always been a feast or famine team. 6.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Lean win (I only say this because we're at home; I'm extremely hesitant to declare victory here)
Next game: Lost 17-10 vs. Virginia Tech (3-1) Thursday night
AT NORTH CAROLINA (1-2, 0-1 ACC)
Season to date: The Heels have opened up 2013 with a brutal schedule. A home 40-20 win over Middle Tennessee is sandwiched by road losses to South Carolina (27-10) and Georgia Tech (28-20). Carolina had high hopes coming into the season, largely riding on quarterback Bryn Renner, who's been solid at best (59.4%, 7 YPA, 4 TD, 2 INTs). It should get better for the Heels as the schedule gets easier.
Biggest weakness: The Tar Heels' rushing defense ranks 115th in the nation at an astounding 237 yards rushing per game. While this is somewhat unfair given their game against Georgia Tech, who can pile up the rushing yards against anyone, a number that high is quick concerning.
Fear level (1-10): I'll give UNC a 5, considering their offense is potent and that defensive rushing total should regress a bit as the season goes on.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Toss up (Night games on the road, folks. Victory should never be assumed)
Next game: vs. East Carolina (2-1)
WAKE FOREST (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
Season to date: It's been quite a tumultuous start to the year for the Demon Deacons. They have wins against FCS Presbyterian (31-7) and Army (25-11) but disappointing losses to fellow ACC bottom-dweller Boston College (24-10) and Louisiana-Monroe (21-19). The key to victory thus far for Wake seems to be their rushing attack. In wins they average an impressive 208.5 yards per game on the ground, but in the losses that number drops to a dismal 35 yards per game.
Biggest strength: Passing defense. While the competition has been weak, the Demon Deacons passing defense has been suffocating, sitting at 8th in the country and allowing just 143 yards per game. We'll see how much they can keep that up once they start facing real quarterbacks. Personally, I don't expect this to continue.
Biggest weakness: Everything else? They rank 110th in the country in total offense and 73rd in rushing defense. It's going to be a long season for the Demon Deacons.
Fear level (1-10): Only slightly better than USF, I'll set this as a 2.5, especially considering this game will be at Sun Life Stadium.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Should win
Next game: Oh god...at #3 Clemson (3-0)
AT #8 FLORIDA STATE (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Season to date: After three games the Seminoles appear to be a juggernaut, but based on the level of competition it's difficult to tell. Blowout victories against Pittsburgh, Nevada, and Bethune-Cookman isn't the most impressive thing ever, but the dominance FSU has displayed is nothing to sniff at. The big story has been the brilliance of freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, who will certainly give us Canes fans headaches for at least the next two years. The defense also appears to be up to snuff despite losing most of its starters from 2012.
Biggest strength: Unfortunately, "all of the above" suffices here for the moment. FSU faces Maryland and then Clemson after this weekend so we'll get a better idea of their true strengths then. It's worth mentioning that they currently have the #1 passing defense in the country and #7 overall defense.
Biggest weakness: So far, I've got nothing. Hopefully something emerges against better competition.
Fear level (1-10): Still pretty unknown, but as of now I'll say 8. Check back in a few weeks.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Should lose (Before everybody jumps on me, this could be upgraded to a "lean loss" if FSU looks shaky against better competition)
Next game: at Boston College (2-1)
VIRGINIA TECH (4-1, 1-0 ACC)
Season to date: VT opened the year as Alabama's sacrificial lamb in Atlanta and actually played pretty well, although the 35-10 scoreline didn't exactly show that. Three consecutive wins followed against FCS Western Carolina (45-3), East Carolina (15-10) and Marshall (29-21 in 3 OTs). While that isn't exactly a string of impressive wins, the Hokies showed up in a big way at Georgia Tech, pulling off the upset in a 17-10 win.
Biggest strength: The Hokies' defense has been absolutely stellar this season, and I'm ready to call it legit considering they've played Alabama, Marshall, and Georgia Tech, all good offenses. Coming into the GT game they ranked 5th nationally overall and both their passing and rushing defenses were in the top 15 (new rankings weren't available immediately after the GT game, but they obviously performed really well in it).
Biggest weakness: The offense has been absolutely anemic, starting with senior QB Logan Thomas. He has seemingly regressed since a stellar sophomore campaign that saw the Hokies reach the Sugar Bowl (and outplay Michigan in an overtime loss). This year (again, coming into the GT game) his completion percentage sits at 48.5% and he averages just 5.2 yards per attempt. He certainly didn't set the world on fire against the Jackets to boost these numbers.
Fear level (1-10): The defense is great, but I don't think the offense can keep up against a prolific offense (GT is too inconsistent to count here). I'll give the Hokies a 5.5.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Lean win
Next game: Won 17-10 at Georgia Tech (3-1) Thursday night
AT DUKE (2-2, 0-2 ACC)
Season to date: Things certainly started out well enough for the Blue Devils, with a 45-0 win over FCS NC Central and a 28-14 win at Memphis. Since then, two conference home games have resulted in a pair of losses to Georgia Tech (38-14) and Pittsburgh (58-55). Yes, they gave up 58 points to Pittsburgh. I don't think anyone is sure how that happened. Giving up a combined 93 points in their first two conference games is not a good sign for what's to come for the Dukies, especially considering both games were at home.
Biggest strength: Another balanced offensive attack here, with two quarterbacks combining to complete 65.9% of their passes for an average of 7.69 yards per attempt (those are fantastic numbers). On the ground, starting back Jela Duncan averages 5.6 yards per carry.
Biggest weakness: The rushing defense. It's not good, folks. Duke gives up an average of 175 yards per game on the ground, landing them at 81st nationally.
Fear level (1-10): Duke Johnson should be able to run all over these guys, but the offense is good enough to keep things interesting for a while. I'll give them a 3.5.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Should win
Next game: vs. Troy (2-2)
VIRGINIA (2-1, 0-0 ACC)
Season to date: This may be the hardest team to get a read on in the conference thus far, at least based on their play this season. (Last season hints that this team won't be very good, but who knows? We've certainly had our troubles with these guys over the years.) A close 19-16 win in Charlottesville over BYU got the season off on the right foot before mighty Oregon came in and delivered a 59-10 beatdown to the Cavs. After a bye week, Virginia beat up on FCS opponent Virginia Military Institute 49-0.
Biggest strength: They have the #7 ranked passing defense in the country!! Playing two teams that utilize a run-first spread and an FCS team will do that for you.
Biggest weakness: This one is an ugly tie! The Cavs' passing attack is unsightly, ranking 106th in the nation. QB David Watford has thrown twice as many picks as TDs and averages less than five yards per throw. On the other side of the ball, the rushing defense ranks 93rd in the country, giving up 193 yards per game. I'll give them a break on that one though, considering they faced run-first spreads (and good ones at that) for the first two weeks.
Fear level (1-10): No idea. As I said, based on how they've performed so far it's hard to say. For now, I'll give them a 3.5. We'll know more as we get into conference season.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Should win (After last year's debacle you never know, but all signs point to Miami this year)
Next game: at Pittsburgh (2-1)
AT PITTSBURGH (2-1, 1-1 ACC)
Season to date: The Panthers shook off an opening 41-13 loss to Florida State and bounced back to win their next two games against New Mexico (48-27) and at Duke (58-55). This is another team we don't know a ton about, but based off their 30 point loss at home to FSU and escape against Duke, things don't appear to be too good in the Steel City this year.
Biggest strength: The Panthers actually rank in the Top 30 passing attacks in the country, coming in at #28 (much of this has to do with facing New Mexico and Duke as their passing performance against FSU wasn't exactly pretty). QB Tom Savage is completing 65% of his passes for an absurd 11 (!!) yards per attempt. This obviously will regress, but it's still an impressive number.
Biggest weakness: Defense overall. The Panthers rank 102nd as an overall unit and both their passing and rushing defenses rank 85th or worse in the nation.
Fear level (1-10): As with a few other teams, we don't know much yet and we'll have a much better grasp going into this game, considering it's the last one of the season. For now, they're a 4.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Lean win
Next game: vs. Virginia (2-1)
There it is. If you've made it to the end, congrats and thank you for reading! Vote in the poll below and comment on any advice you'd have for me; I'd love to hear some words of wisdom from more experienced members of the SOTU community.