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Game Preview: Much on the Line for Miami Football Vs Nebraska

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Let's be honest here.

Last week's 44-20 win over FAU did little to inspire us that the 2015 Miami Hurricanes are major contenders in the ACC, nonetheless back on the National Scene.

Against what should have been an inferior opponent, UM struggled for 2 and a half quarters, and the game was tied at 20 all before Al Golden's squad took control.

Things get a little tougher this week with the Nebraska Cornhuskers coming to town.

But let's be honest again, Mike Riley's 1-1 rebuilt squad is not exactly elite either.

Yes their one loss was due to a Hail Mary miracle Vs BYU.

But that game also exposed some of Nebraska's weaknesses, namely they are not nearly as explosive as last season's team featuring stars Ameer Abdullah and Randy Gregory, and they lack elite perimeter talent on both sides of the ball.

However they are very, very solid up the middle defensively, and QB Tommy Armstrong looks far more confident and accurate than he did in 2014.

So what we have here is two flawed teams squaring off, both hoping to find their identity with a win over a Power 5 opponent.

For Miami though, there is a little more at stake.

Coach Golden can tell you all he wants that his staff and players ignore "outside noise."

But the credibility of the program and the confidence of the fan base are at stake this weekend Vs the Huskers.

If the Hurricanes can not find a way to win on Saturday, it will do very little to inspire hopes that they can beat the other big boys on the schedule, namely FSU, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.

And with winning the ACC Coastal the all or nothing goal for 2015, they need this game.

Even if it has no affect on the conference standings, it feels like more than just an out of conference test.

It's a measuring stick if you will, on the season and the program.

So what will it take for Miami to get the win?

Let's take a closer look at the game itself:

When the Hurricanes have the ball:

UM will need to be very solid up front (an early season concern) as Nebraska features two very good interior defensive lineman in Vincent Valentine Jr. & Maliek Collins.  C Nick Linder and G Danny Isidora are arguably the best two offensive lineman the Hurricanes have, and they need to be up to the test Vs the two monsters the Cornhuskers feature on the inside. Where the 'Canes might have the most success, is out on the perimeter. Bubble screens (yes) to Stacey Coley and swing passes to Joe Yearby & Mark Walton could expose the limited athleticism they will face on the outside. Rashawn Scott could also be in for a big game against corners who had trouble making plays on the ball Vs BYU.  But for that to happen, Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott/Sunny Odogwu can not have breakdowns in protection at the T spot. Brad Kaaya will also need to be aware of where S Nate Gerry lines up.  Gerry is a heady player who can force turnovers if left unaccounted for.  All in all though, Miami should be able to move the ball and put points on the board against a defense that while very stout on the inside, should not be nearly fast enough to contain the 'Canes.

When the Cornhuskers have the ball:

Armstrong really looks like a different player than the one UM faced last season.  His arm strength has been on display and he has made some very accurate throws into tight coverage through 2 games this season.  The good news, he does a lot more work from the pocket this season and is less prone to break contain and scramble. But the Hurricanes have struggled to generate pressure with out blitzes anyhow.  So this game could come down to how well UM's top corners and safeties make plays on the ball.  Tracy Howard, Artie Burns, Corn Elder, Rayshawn Jenkins, and Deon Bush in particular, are the best set of DBs he might face all season long.  When he makes throws to the outside, the 'Canes need to make breaks on the ball and make him pay with a pick or two. His top receiver, Jordan Westerkamp has wonderful hands and is tough to bring down after the catch.  But I don't see him getting tons of separation Vs the 'Canes corners. When Nebraska runs the ball, Terrell Newby is their top back.  He's very solid between the tackles, but not nearly the player Abdullah was.  Nonetheless, with the struggles the Hurricanes had stopping the run against FAU, he could be in for a pretty decent day.  If they get ahead on down and distance Nebraska can do a alot of play action passing, giving Armstrong bigger windows to find Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly, and Alonzo Moore down field.  Long story short I do not feel overwhelmingly confident Miami will stop Nebraska's O with any kind of consistent basis.

Prediction:

I expect this weekend's game to be a shoot out that is decided by turnovers.  Neither team's defenses will bring back memories of the 80's & 90's where these were two powerhouse programs.  I think Kaaya and Armstrong duel it out and whichever QB can avoid the big mistake wins.  Miami's D has a host of players in Bush, Chad Thomas, Al-Quadin Muahmmad, and Tyriq McCord who can jar the ball loose.  I think a timely forced fumble and or INT is the difference and the Hurricanes get a close win at home, 34-31.