Well, it seems like a few days ago we were getting ready to take on FAU. A seven game win streak, a top ten ranking, and resolution of the NCAA saga - man - things were looking good. A quick jolt back to reality courtesy of a three game losing streak, and loss of arguably the offense's top two "home run" threats, and we find ourselves here. Where is here? Well, that really depends on what your expectations of this year's team was coming into this season. Here it's coming into the last game of the season with a chance of sneaking into the ACC title game - even if it's unlikely. Here is also having a shot to become a 10 win team - if UM wins out. How Miami does in this game will impact how the season as a whole is viewed, because there is a big jump between 9-3 and 8-4.
History: Miami leads the series 22-9-1. UM has won the last seven meetings, including the last time these two hooked up back in 2010. This ACC match-up goes back to the good old Big East days; and while the weather is supposed to impact this week's game, UM has done well up north - going 12-5 in Pittsburgh. UM(8-3) is coming off of a win last week over Virginia, while Pitt(6-5) is coming off of a one point win over Syracuse.
Pittsburgh: If you were just to look at their offensive rankings, you wouldn't be too worried about their 107th overall offensive ranking. While yes, their run game leaves something to be desired averaging 105 yards a game, it's their passing game that can cause UM trouble. They rank 67th nationally, averaging about 230 yards a game, but have two very talented WRs. (Not exactly great news when you factor in the UM injuries at CB.) Those two WRs have accounted for 119 receptions, 1,757 yards, and 13TDs. Awesome... The duo are pretty even stat wise - Devin Street is a bit bigger at 6-3/192lbs. He has three 100+ yard receiving games, including 141 yards against FSU. Tyler Boyd is not much smaller at 6-2/185lbs. He's had four 100+ yard games including a 3 TD 154 yard performance against Duke. He also happens to be a freshman.
As talented as the receivers are, they still need someone to throw it to them, and that is where QB Tom Savage comes in. Savage - on the year - has a completion percentage of 61.9%, and has thrown for just over 2,500 yards, 19TDs and 8Ints. To compare - those numbers are similar to Morris' 58.5% comp. percentage, 2,572 yards passing,18TDs, and 12INTs. I guess on the bright side he's not a running threat. In the last two games he's combined a negative 106 yards, and has -214 yards on the season. Impressive.
Miami will be plenty busy trying to defend the passing game shorthanded, so it's good Pitt doesn't run the ball all too well. Now if their QB didn't have a negative 214 yards, they would rank a bit higher than 111th rushing; but they use two primary backs, and both are capable of making it a long day for UM. Isaac Bennett is their leading rusher with 645 yards on 145 carries. He's got the better stats, but his highest yardage output in ACC play this year is 38 against Duke. Not far behind him is James Conner. He has 548 yards on 115 attempts, and has two 100+ yard games in ACC play this year. WR Tyler Boyd also comes up in the rushing stats. He only has 11 carries but they're for 108 yards and a touchdown, so expect some sort of reverse or end-around from him this week.
Miami: Due in part to the sloppy conditions last week, UM had a sub-par game offensively. They had less than 100 yards on the ground and only 10 first downs. They did create and score on a few turnovers affecting the over all production, but I'd imagine they were not happy with their performance either. With Pitt's offensive strength matching up against Miami's injury induced weakness, Morris and company need to be ready to put up points. With the weather coming into play; and Pitt having an all-world / best defensive interior lineman since Ndamukong Suh-type player in Aaron Donald, the Oline and running game are going to have to play at a high level. Something to watch for will be Allen Hurns needing 35 yards to pass the 1,000 yard mark receiving - something only three other UM receivers have done.
Miami's defense tends to live and die with it's ability to create turnovers. Again, the weather in the first half last week played a factor, but there were a lot of missed open field tackles that hurt UM. They were able to improve in the second half a bit, but it was the four turnovers Miami forced that made the difference in the game. With the loss of starting CB Ladarius Gunter, and secondary members Nate Dortch and Corn Elder, it leaves UM a bit vulnerable in the pass defensive department. The defensive line will need to step up and create pressure on the QB to help them out. The depth chart lists Antonio Crawford OR Artie Burns OR Kacy Rodgers II as starting corner. Whoever starts and whoever plays will have their hands full.
Player to watch: For Pitt, it's DT Aaron Donald. Monster, beast, large, one man wrecking crew, all ways I have seen him described... for UM fans I'll go with pain in the ass. He leads the nation in tackles for loss, ranks 10th in sacks, 11th in forced fumbles, and is the active career leader in sacks in the FBS with 28.5. As you would imagine, he's on every award watch list that applies to him, and the NFL scouts love him. Miami's Oline will be busy trying to slow him down.
Player to watch: For Miami, it's the secondary. Whoever gets the start in place of Gunter will need to play at a high level. Pitts receivers are good and will capitalize on any mistakes. Hopefully the defensive line can create pressure and make their defensive backs lives a bit easier.
Should you worry? Great passing game; possibly the best DT in the country; and weather 90% of the team isn't used to - nothing troubling about that at all. Don't worry about the changes in the secondary, and the fact that UM needs to win this game to have any hope of falling into the ACCCG, and/or landing a bit more prestigious a bowl game. Try to enjoy because somehow this season is already over... at least UM gets a bowl this year.
Prediction: UM 30 Pitt 24
Below is Miami's ACC injury report following Saturday's game vs. UVA.
Surgery / Out for Season:
Cornelius Elder - Lower Extremity
Nate Dortch - Lower Extremity
ABC • Dave Lamont, Play-by-Play • David Diaz-Infante, Analyst • Niki Noto, Sideline Reporter
WQAM 560 AM • Joe Zagacki, PXP • Don Bailey Jr., Analyst • Josh Darrow, Sideline Reporter
RADIO CARACOL 1260 AM • Roly Martin, PXP • Pepe Campos, Analyst • Joe Martinez, Analyst
WVUM 90.5 FM • Chris Wittyngham, PXP • SATELLITE RADIO • Sirius 92 • XM 193 (Pitt Broadcast)
- Where are they now? SOTU Update on last year's Hurricanes Hoops Stars
- Game Preview - Miami at Pittsburgh: Hope is not lost
- This Ain't No Mickey Mouse Tournament: Tough Road Ahead for Canes in Wooden Legacy
- Miami, Thanksgiving, & The Apple Cup
- ACC Power Rankings: Week 13