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Rivalry Roundtable: Breaking down the Gators

At this point, I think most everyone is sick of hearing about history, about lack of scheduling, about annoying fan bases, stupid jokes, and attendance talk. We want the damn game! Joe, Cam, Juan, and Mike G sat down to have a little chat about the expectations of what will and should happen on the field at Noon tomorrow.

Joel Auerbach

Joe: I think the logical place to start is at Quarterback. I don’t think it’s even worth mentioning that if either of the two piles up mistakes or turnovers that it’s likely a wrap for the other. Given the focus on Miami’s defense I know that most Cane fans are concerned about Driskell.

Truth be told, he’s not my main concern. Driskell is not without physical ability but he’s struggles with the downfield passing game and Florida’a WR core leaves something to be desired. There’s the ability for them to hit a couple decent chunk plays if Miami gives the UF running game the respect it deserves, but I’m going to go out on the limb and say that it’ll take more than a couple chunk passing plays to win this for the Gators. Driskell biggest threat isn’t even in the read-option game in my mind. For all Miami’s faults defensively they’ve become relatively disciplined and good at maintaining gaps and assignments. FAU ran plenty of the read-option stuff last week with (albeit with no passing attack and much less overall talent) and Miami did its job against it despite week 1 sloppiness. Plus if there’s one thing Miami has on defense is plus team speed, especially in the back 7. That should help them limit any damage done in that area.

Instead my main concern with Driskell is the unpredictability where he can just take off and run for big gains with consistency if not held in check. This is an area that has burn Miami defenses in previous years and is something that could suck the air out of our defense in a hurry. All that said, I think it’ pretty clear that Miami is heading into this game with an advantage at Quarterback. Cam, what do you think are the key matchups Morris needs to take advantage of if they are going to pull this out?

Cam: For me, Morris has to be accurate, confident, and daring, all at the same time. Fans and journalists have loved to quote his mediocre play against .500 teams last year, and rightfully so.

Morris will need to be much better with his ball placement and accuracy. Last year, he got away with a bunch of less than perfect throws (remember that TD against NCSU that went through the hands of the LB?). He won't be so lucky with those kinds of throws against UF.

Morris will need to be confident in his own abilities and talents, like the NFL arm that scouts drool over. The daring part will come from taking chances, throwing the ball deep against the UF defense to start the game. The Canes did this against ND last year and would have had success if not for Philip Dorsett having a case of butterfingers. Similar deep shots early will be needed to loosen up a stingy UF defense.

As far as matchups, Morris needs to account for CB Lucheiz Purifoy on every throw. Purifoy is a great cover player who has incredible ball skills (they're so good, he even moonlights on offense for UF). Fellow CB Marcus Roberson is another player to keep an eye on.

Ok, enough about the QBs. What do you think the Canes need to do on defense to combat what figures to be a very physical UF rushing attack?

Juan: Florida ran for 246 yards against Toledo last weekend and sure, Miami's defense isn't as bad as Toledo's, but that's Florida's game. The Gators are going to try and run the Canes to the ground and the defensive line is going to get their first test of the season.

There's no secret that these guys need to play better, but they'll have to have an incredible game for the Canes to come out with a win. Chickillo needs to come out and put some pressure on the quarterback, and if a Florida running back hits a gap, the linebackers need to be out there and jump on the ball. Denzel Perryman and Alex Figueroa give Miami good speed on the outside and that's a big help for the defense.

I also think that the secondary play is crucial. The Gators are going to get their rushing yards, we all know that, but if the secondary can cause third down problems for Driskell and get off the field on third downs, the Canes have a good shot. They can't afford to let Florida get comfortable in the passing game because that'll open the running game even more. Look for Tracy Howard to send some messages this week against the team he was originally going to.

What group do you guys think is more important for a win, Defensive line or secondary?

Cam: On defense, the more important part is Defensive line BY FAR. Florida is gonna try to pound us, and we have to be vigilant and physical up front to stop that from happening.

Mike G: On defense Miami's D Line really, REALLY needs to watch their gap assignments. If you are able to rewatch the game (go check it out on watchESPN) the north south runs by FAU the D linemen were able to handle fairly well. The ones that were effective however were the zone tosses wide of the tackles. The FAU running backs on more than 3 occasions were able to run wide and cut back to the middle and gain solid yardage. This was due to the Miami D line over pursuing and the FAU back simply cutting back to the open gap. If this occurs against UF, expect big gashes instead of 4-6 yard gains.

Cam: But, while we're talking about defense, there's a key component to this game I think we've forgotten to address: What do you think Miami will do when faced with Driskell running the ball? Are we going to rely on pressure from the rush, or is someone going to play "spy" on him?

Joe: I touched on Driskell's rushing ability a little but earlier but I think the honest answer is that when it comes to his read option stuff, they'll treat him the same way they've treated the QB for Georgia Tech for the last few years: maintain your gap and smack him as hard as you can. He's a guy that can be prone to dumb plays and a loose handle. I think they can live with him scrambling on them a little bit so long as they are forcing them into mistakes and out of the option game.

Miami's secondary has improved to a point where they can really limit a poor passing attack like the Gators so taking them out of the option game with Driskell will make that UF offense much more one dimensional and easy to defend.

Switching directions a bit, the Gators are too good defensively to let Duke beat them by himself, who steps up for Miami and gives them something extra on the offensive side?

Juan: I'm going to go with Stacy Coley. He's been the talk of many Canes fans after a couple dropped passes, but what better way to shut everybody up than a big game against Florida? With Rashawn Scott out with injury, there's even more reps available for Coley. This is a guy who everyone fell in love with during camp and I think he's going to have a huge game this weekend against a really good Florida secondary and cement himself as a top receiver on this team.

Herb Waters is also another guy to look out for. We saw the end around last weekend, but the guy can play the wide receiver position well. The Canes are going to have to throw the ball well to beat the Gators and Coley, Waters and the rest of the receiving group will have to step up this weekend.

Cam: In my mind, that "extra" on offense has to come from the TE position. While Walford might not be at the level where he can do it all by himself, the 3 headed monster of Walford, Cleveland, and Sandland (Or, as our former fearless leader Lt. Nolan would call him, BEAU SANDLAND) should be able to win on routes and display their varied skillsets. The downside of using the TEs as pass-catchers, however, is that you take them out of the protection scheme. That puts a LOT of pressure on our OLine. I guess we'll see if they're as good as we've been told they are (and as good as I have personally written that they are).

Juan: Staying on offense, what are you guys expecting out of Duke Johnson?

Joe: Given that Miami has a bye week next weekend, followed by a faux bye the follow weekend at Savannah State, Duke will have plenty of time to rest any wounds that he might incur against UF. I think that means that the potential is there for Duke to go from his normal 22-24 touch allotment to something pushing 30 if it’s needed. That means we will be seeing Duke in every aspect of this game. Handoffs, passes, kick returns. He’ll likely do it all. I’d venture to guess you’ll see a handful of passes, a few kick returns and carries approaching the 25 range. And anytime a guy with the talent of Duke isn’t going for 100+ with that amount of carries, something is seriously wrong so I fully expect him to be able to eclipse that 100 yard rushing mark, even if it takes him a little longer than usual to get there.

Cam: We know Trey Burton is Florida's "ultimate weapon" on offense. Who else on their team scares you?

Joe: Offensively, Matt Jones is it. Miami struggled with the power run game all last year and UF has a good one. Jones big, smart, physical, and will break any arm tackle attempt. UF has an offensive line that is capable of stepping up and beating our DL with consistency to open up rushing lanes for him so Miami will have to play a near perfect game in the back 7 to keep his runs to a minimum once he gets to that 2nd level.

The good news is that Miami is deeper along the interior defensive line this year and Florida is down 2 offensive lineman (Halapio and Green) with a 3rd (Humphries) not quite 100%. Hopefully that give Miami enough of an edge to hold them own up front as the game wears on.

Florida is known for being ultra-aggressive in their blitz packages and we've yet to truly see a Coley called game. What does he have up his sleeve to combat the pressure they are sure to bring?

Mike G: On offense look for Miami to "unleash" more of the playbook. I know Golden said in the post FAU, pre UF new conference a few days ago that they couldn't afford to overlook FAU but lets face it.. They used about 15 plays and simply flipped the direction of the selection based on what hash mark they lined up. Zone draw, wide receiver screen was seen at least 5-10 times each. I liked the flea flicker at the beginning of the game and I thought the end around was really well timed (again. this was due to the stale play calling). If UM can have a great game plan the entire game they really have a great shot at surprising the UF defense and coming away a victory.

Cam: Miami used to be one of the best teams in the Nation at running screen plays. Coley will probably try to integrate a couple of those early, along with the vertical throws I mentioned earlier. Quick hitches to the receivers (depending on UF's coverage of choice) and draw plays figure to be used as well.

Apart from those "standard" things that are used to combat aggressive and talented Defensive lines, I'm interested to see what wrinkle Coley busts out that we haven't seen before. Involving Morris in more designed QB runs? Moving the pocket with bootlegs and waggles? Wildcat with Duke? Pre-Snap shifts? Packaged Plays?

(Extra Note for the packaged play newbies)

There has to be SOMETHING NEW, in addition to executing the offense at a high level, when you play a defense of this caliber.

Mike G: I believe the X factor in this game is who comes out "amped" and ready to go. If you watched the FSU verse Pitt game on Monday the Pitt Panthers were on a mission the first 15 minutes of that contest. They came out hitting (I believe they caused a fumble on a kick of??) and their offense was unstoppable. They lost their rhythm however due to having to take a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty and pop went their balloon. If Miami comes out and pops UF in the mouth, they have a legitimate chance. Being at home and being motivated to knock off a top 10 team will be weighing heavily on their mind (motivation). Oh, and it is Florida bee tee dubs.