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.
GEORGIA TECH (3-1, 2-1 ACC)
Last week: The Yellow Jackets laid an egg in a nationally-televised Thursday night game at home against Virginia Tech in a 17-10 loss. However, a lot of this may be due to VT being better than we thought (we'll get to them in a bit) than anything Georgia Tech did wrong. Bottom line, any way you want to spin it, this was not a good night for the Jackets' offense: just 273 yards of offense, 3 turnovers, 9 penalties for 66 yards and 10 points.
Biggest strength: A tie between their rushing offense and rushing defense. Despite a tough game last week, Tech's rushing defense still ranks 10th nationally. Their defense held up fantastically against an admittedly anemic VT offensive "attack" and ranks 9th in the nation against the run.
Biggest weakness: Since passing offense isn't really a part of GT's game, it's hard to fault their 117th-ranked unit in that area. I'll stick with their 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, but that looks much less impressive this week after the Tar Heels' performance against ECU. Against VT, they were never able to recover.
Fear level (1-10): The defense is much improved and the offense is always difficult and unique 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: A home game with what should be a pretty good crowd at Sun Life Stadium bodes well for the Canes, who come in as 5.5-point favorites in Vegas. Lean win
Next game: at #14 Miami (4-0)
AT NORTH CAROLINA (1-3, 0-1 ACC)
Last week: After a dud of a performance last week, the Tar Heels—once thought to be contenders in a wide open Coastal Division—are in danger of missing a bowl game. While the offense was good against a decent defense, UNC's defense was porous, allowing 603 total yards, 36 (!!) first downs and 55 points in a 24-point home loss. Carolina fans are struggling to adjust their season expectations after Saturday's performance.
Biggest strength: UNC's passing attack is still quite potent, ranking 23rd in the nation behind quarterback Bryn Renner, who threw for 366 yards (8 YPA) and three scores against East Carolina.
Biggest weakness: They can't run the ball or stop the run. Their rushing offense is ranked 113th in the nation at just 100 yards per game and their defense surrenders 234.5 yards per game, good for 114th nationally.
Fear level (1-10): I had them at a 5 next week, but after the defensive debacle on Saturday, I'll put them at a 4. As long as their opponent's offense doesn't turn the ball over, it doesn't seem like can score enough to keep up.
Outcome of matchup for UM: It's on the road and at night, so it wouldn't be smart to confidently declare victory, but the talent gap between UM and UNC is large. Lean win
Next game: at Virginia Tech (4-1)
WAKE FOREST (2-3, 0-2 ACC)
Last week: The Demon Deacons took a predictable beatdown in Death Valley from Clemson, 56-7. In the game, Wake managed just 222 yards of offense while yielding 573. It's going to be a really tough year in Winston-Salem.
Biggest strength: As I predicted last week, their passing defense fell drastically once the competition got better, from 8th to 37th in the country in just one game against Clemson. It's hard to identify any real strengths with this team right now.
Biggest weakness: This offense is ho-ho-rendous. They gain just 312 yards per week, putting them at 116th nationally. Starting QB Tanner Price actually has alright numbers (56.7%, 6.9 YPA, 6 TD, 2 INT), but that's only translated to the 95th-ranked passing attack in the country.
Fear level (1-10): Still slightly better than USF, so, like last week, 2.5.
Outcome of matchup for UM: This is easily the most guaranteed win on the schedule the rest of the way. Should win
Next game: vs. NC State (3-1)
AT #8 FLORIDA STATE (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Last week: Hey, these guys actually looked quite mortal...for about a quarter. Boston College carried a 17-3 lead into the second quarter before FSU woke up and outscored the overmatched Eagles 45-17 the rest of the way. Regardless, this game was good news for 'Canes fans as the Seminoles finally showed some vulnerability, even against the hapless Eagles.
Biggest strength: It's still the passing defense. While it took a bit of a hit last week, dropping from #1 in the country to #4, it's still unquestionably the strongest unit on the team. Any opponent that relies on throwing the ball around is going to have their hands full against this FSU squad. It's also worth mentioning here that Jameis Winston is still above 12.6 YPA on his throws, which is just nucking futs for anyone, let alone a freshman.
Biggest weakness: Seems like we've finally found something! Both of Boston College's running backs were able to crack five yards per carry against the 'Noles en route to a 200 yard rushing day for the team. FSU's rushing defense now ranks 60th in the country.
Fear level (1-10): Last week I had them as an 8, this week I'll lower them to a 7.5. While their defense seems like it can be had on the ground, that offense with Jameis Winston is still scary. They've yet to play a good defense though, stay tuned.
Outcome of matchup for UM: Because Miami's defense is better than any FSU has faced so far and the strongest part of our offense (running with Duke) is FSU's weakest defensive point, I'll upgrade this one from should lose. We'll still be road underdogs though. Lean loss
Next game: vs. #25 Maryland (2-0)
VIRGINIA TECH (4-1, 1-0 ACC)
Last week: The Hokies picked up an impressive—and important—road win at Georgia Tech, 17-10. The defense was incredible, holding GT's vaunted option rushing attack to just 129 yards rushing (the Jackets' ground game was ranked #4 in the country entering the game). Despite scoring just 17 points, senior QB Logan Thomas quietly had a solid game, completing 19-of-25 passes for 8.8 yards per attempt with a touchdown and no picks. If he can get it going, this team will be quite good.
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. They're now ranked 4th nationally, including 5th against the pass. This defense is good enough to carry the Hokies to a Coastal Division title if the 'Canes can't beat the Hokies on November 9.
Biggest weakness: The offense has been absolutely anemic, starting with senior QB Logan Thomas. Even though he had a good day against GT, his completion percentage for the year sits at 52.8% and he averages just 5.8 yards per attempt. While this is somewhat mitigated by playing Alabama, he's had plenty of time to make these numbers prettier against Western Carolina and Marshall.
Fear level (1-10): The defense is elite, but I don't think the offense can keep up against a prolific offense. 5.5.
Outcome of matchup for UM: If the 'Canes can knock off Georgia Tech this weekend—as they are favored to—this game could decide the Coastal Division. Miami gets a break, as this game is at Sun Life Stadium for a second straight year due to ACC realignment. Lean win
Next game: vs. North Carolina (1-3)
AT DUKE (3-2, 0-2 ACC)
Last week: The Dukies were able to hold off Sun Belt opponent Troy 38-31 in a wild game in Durham. Troy is just as bad as you'd think they would be, with their only wins in OT against UAB and a 66-3 win over...oh god...Savannah State (poor Tigers). Duke yielded 512 yards to the Trojans and this was obviously not a good win for the Blue Devils.
Biggest strength: While their offense only ranks 46th nationally, Duke boasts a balanced attack, with QB Brandon Connette averaging 8.7 (!!) yards per attempt (for reference, that's 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 still bad, giving up 170 yards per game, good for 79th in the nation.
Fear level (1-10): After this whole Troy thing, the Blue Devils drop from a 3.5 to a 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: BYE
VIRGINIA (2-2, 0-1 ACC)
Last week: Woof. Not a good week for the Cavs. Against a team that gave up 55 points to Duke, Virginia managed just a field goal in a 14-3 loss at Pittsburgh. To be fair, the defense allowed just 14 to an offense that scored 13 against FSU and 58 against Duke. But it was a tough day for the offense, which managed just 188 yards while going 3-for-18 on third down (and we though 1-for-11 against Florida was rough). QB David Watford was 15-for-27 for 3.3 YPA. RB Kevin Parks averaged 2.1 YPC. As I said, not a good day.
Biggest strength: The defense was outstanding against a Pittsburgh offense that can be at least described as competent. Their passing defense is ranked #8 in the country and this appears to be somewhat legit, though it will be tested this season against Maryland, Clemson and Miami. Except this ranking to end up somewhere in the high-20s or low-30s by season's end.
Biggest weakness: Their passing offense is absolutely ghastly, ranking 114th in the nation. Watford averages a woeful 4.5 yards per attempt with twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three) on the year.
Fear level (1-10): Good defense, absolutely brutal offense, so I'd put them at approximately the same quality as Duke even though they're opposites of each other. That nets them a 3.
Outcome of matchup for UM: While Miami has absolutely had its struggles against UVA in the past, all signs point to the 'Canes this year. Senior day should be a happy one for Miami. Should win
Next game: vs. Ball State (4-1)
AT PITTSBURGH (3-1, 2-1 ACC)
Last week: The Panthers won an ugly contest against Virginia 14-3. The dominance of Pitt's defense is covered above, but their offense was pretty much as bad as UVA's, though the score doesn't exactly reflect it. The Panthers managed just 199 yards of total offense, including just 8 (!!) on the ground. QB Tom Savage completed just 13-of-31 passes and RB John Connor averaged 1.8 yards on 15 carries. There are definitely legitimate concerns about this offense going forward.
Biggest strength: Last week I marveled at how QB Tom Savage was completing 65% of his passes for an absurd 11 yards per attempt, but said it would regress. I didn't realize it would happen this quickly, but an 18.7 QBR day will do that for you. He still averages 9.6 YPA, but expect that to keep falling. It's hard to identify any solid strengths with Pitt, everything is average or worse.
Biggest weakness: Everything is pretty much at least average, aside from rushing offense, which ranks 79th in the country. Just like how they don't really have a solid strength, there's no glaring weakness either at this point. This is a decisively average squad.
Fear level (1-10): Like last week, still a 4.
Outcome of matchup for UM: All signs point to the 'Canes here, but anything can happen in a conference road game. Lean win
Next game: BYE
Opponents Watch checks in at 2,201 words this week; congrats and a big thanks if you've made it all the way to the end! Vote in the poll below to share which opponent (aside from the 'Noles) scares you the most the rest of the way.