MERRY CHRISTMAS CANES FANS! Hope everyone is having a blessed holiday so far, and if you're like me, the best holiday gift hasn't even happened yet - Miami vs. Wazzu. I cannot describe how excited I am for this game, especially with all of the change that is happening before our eyes still with one more game to play. It will be interesting to see how the Canes play knowing that this is the last game under interim head coach Larry Scott.
Since Miami's win over Pitt to conclude the regular season, a few things have happened in the Canes' camp. A new (and great) head coach, a new OC, a few commits and decommits, just to name a few. Even though a lot of movement is happening outside the lines, the Canes will look to face a very unfamiliar opponent on Saturday.
Washington State (8-4, 6-3 Pac 12) is going to throw the ball.....a lot, and that's not even a good representation of how much they will throw the football. Miami (8-4, 5-3 ACC) does not have to worry about making the Cougars one-dimensional, as they are averaging nearly 300(!!) yards more through the air per game as compared on the ground. Let's take a look at the last time these two teams played:
Well, it looks like this is the first time they are facing one another. LET'S GET THOSE BRAGGING RIGHTS!
Luke Falk vs. Canes Secondary
This matchup absolutely terrifies me but also excites me, and is should do the same for you. It is no secret that the most talented part of the Miami defense lies in the secondary. It's an even worse-kept secret that Wazzu will throw the ball until the clock hits double zeros in the fourth quarter. Was leads the nation with 397 pass yards per game and is 128th in the country with only 79.9 rushing yards per game - which is good, considering the Canes haven't stopped a running back since 2012.
Wazzu's quarterback, Luke Falk, is an absolute magician in Mike Leach's patented air-raid offense. Falk led the nation in pass yards by a wide margin, averaging 387.8 yards through the air per game. If you think Brad Kaaya's numbers were good, Falk threw for 4,266 yards, 36 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. While Kaaya's numbers are still very good and operates a different offense, Falk absolutely lit up the stats this year, all while missing a game this season as well.
With Falk's impressive numbers, it's important to highlight who he is throwing to.
Of course, they aren't the only receivers on the team, but these two playmakers are the ones the Miami defense need to keep a very keen eye on. Miami hasn't seen a team of this passing caliber this season. Gabe Marks and Dom Williams will look to have huge games against a talented secondary, but that won't matter if the Canes can't do the job up front. Despite the impressive numbers, Marks and Williams have only combined to eclipse 100 yards in a game seven times; but have also scored in 17 of their combined 24 games.
The Miami secondary took a hit this past week with the sudden suspension of safety of Jamal Carter, who was sent home due to a violation of team rules. The Canes will be heavily reliant upon corners Artie Burns, Corn Elder and Tracy Howard, who will all need HUGE games for Miami to be successful. This game will easily be their biggest test of the season. The Canes will also have to have great games from their safety now that Carter will not suit up. Senior Deon Bush will likely be playing inspired football seeing that it is his last football game in a Miami uniform, and Cam's boy Dallas Crawford will need to, well, not play like Dallas Crawford.
What's also important in this matchup is Miami tackling. While Wazzu is one of the best, if not the best, passing team in the country, their receivers' yards per catch averages don't exactly jump off the charts. The Cougars are more than happy to take five or six yards on a completion and not force something downfield for a chunk play. Of course, if you give them the opportunity, they will more than likely take it. The Canes play that (annoying) D'Onofrio special "Bend but don't break" defense. Miami is ok with giving up the yards if they keep you out of the end zone. With Wazzu's passing ability, it may work for them to chew some time off the clock, but if the Cougars get in the end zone, this game could be a blowout of Miami's offense stalls.
It's finally time to put the finishing touches on what feels like a lost season for Miami. There was so much negativity and turmoil within the program, one would think that they were winless. However, Miami still emerged 8-4, can win nine games, and will go into next season with a GREAT head coach.
The defense, as always, will be tested in this matchup. The Canes have to make sure Wazzu remains one-dimensional and not be able to run the football. If Wazzu gets over (let's be generous and say 125 yards) on the ground, this one could be over. If Miami does not put points on the board this one will be over fast. Wazzu will get theirs, they will throw, and they will score. The Canes have to give their best effort in order to win this football game. On top of the defense and the secondary I'm particular playing a great football, the offense has to come to play and probably give their best effort as well. Miami has shown plenty of effort, but it hasn't always translated to the scoreboard. Personally, offense will win this game, and it will win it for one of these football teams. With that being said, Canes - 45, Wazzu - 42.