It was a relatively quiet week for the Canes, as last weekend was Miami's bye week. The only update released from Canes practice was the head/neck injury to sophomore LB Marques Gayot, an injury that will have him sidelined indefinitely. An already thin LB corps just got thinner. More bad news includes the status of Miami wideout Stacy Coley, who will be out again for the same hamstring injury he suffered in the first game this season. On the bright side, WR Braxton Berrios is expected to play after injuring his knee in the first game as well.
Cincinnati is entering the game 2-2 thus far and will also be without starting QB Gunner Kiel, who took a nasty hit in their game last Thursday night in a loss at Memphis. Their backup QB, Hayden Moore, will get the nod at QB and try to pick apart the Canes secondary, who is among the nation's best at takeaways.
Last season, the Canes and Bearcats met at the incredibly orange Sun Life Stadium, and bested the 'Cats by the score of 55-34. Oh, and take the Over this year's game. But although Cincy put up 34 points on Miami, the game was not that close. Miami dominated from the opening snap while Cincy scored the majority of their points during garbage time in the fourth quarter. Entering the final frame, the scoreboard boasted a 41-13 score in favor of the hometown Canes.
Gunner Kiel had an effective day against Miami, throwing for 355 yards and 3 TDs, but also threw three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. The Cincy rushing attack was nonexistent versus that Canes, only tallying 67 yards on 29 attempts. Although the Bearcats are a pass-first team, it is imperative the Miami defense forces them to becoming a one-dimensional offense once again.
For Miami, they put up a season-high 55 points on a porous defense that was quite awful throughout the season. Brad Kaaya threw for an easy 286 yards and 3 TDs on just 24 attempts. Future first-round pick Phillip Dorsett racked up 143 receiving yards and 2 TDs...all on three, yes, just three catches. But the position group that stole the show that game was the running backs. Former Cane and current Cleveland Brown Duke Johnson ran for 162 yards and a score on just 10 carries, Joseph Yearby took eight carries for 113 yards, and Gus Edwards ran for 85 yards and one TD on 11 carries. In total, Miami rushed for an astounding 335 on 35 carries. While the Bearcats can score, they can, and will certainly give up many more points. Expect the Miami offense to put up similar numbers Thursday night. Here is the infographic on the matchup, courtesy of the UM Athletic Department:
That turnover margin...
Secondary vs. Secondary
That's right, two defensive units against one another. Let's start on the Bearcat side of the football.
Cincinnati is bad on defense. I could probably leave it at that, but we'll take a closer look at this Cincy defense. Last season, the Bearcats were ranked 101st out of 128 teams in total defense. They were consistently ranked in the bottom third of defensive statistics, including being 111th in the country in passing yards per game, giving up 266.3 per contest. Entering week 5, Cincy is tied for 79th in total defense, 68th in pass yards allowed per game at 217.3, and 76th in rush yards allowed per game at 172.8. Cincinnati has yet to play a power 5 school, so the numbers will surely change, especially with the speed and offensive firepower Miami possesses.
Looking back at the infographic above, Miami is averaging pretty good numbers offensively, and are among the nation's best in yards per game, passing yards per game and points per game. Cincy has given up 10, 34, 33, and 53 points so far through each of their first four contests. If this woeful defensive trend continues, the Bearcats may be in for a long might against a Miami team that boasts the conference's best QB in Brad Kaaya (yeah, I said it), a dynamic duo at running back in Mark Walton and Joe Yearby, and a talented and deep receiver group that could feast on a much maligned defense such as Cincinnati's. Kaaya could, and should, throw for more than 350 yards on Thursday.
Miami, on the other hand, is fairly decent on this side of the football. Yes, there are times where they look like the 2012 team; however, being plus 8 in the turnover margin is no fluke. Miami is tied for 29th nationally in sacks, tied for 7th with seven INTs, and have also recovered three fumbles. Something to keep in mind is most teams have not had a bye week and have played four games to Miami's three.
Here is what Miami will have their hands full with:
Also a sneak peek of what the Miami offense can do to this vulnerable defense.
The Miami defense will first have to stop QB Hayden Moore, who threw for a school-record 557 yards, 4 TDs and two INTs. Not bad for a backup redshirt freshman QB. Moore certainly has the hot hand right now and will look to burn the Canes secondary in front of what is sure to be an electric home crowd on Thursday night. Now Moore wasn't doing this himself, he has a plethora of weapons to throw to and they will be definite factors in this game. Against Memphis, WRs Max Morrison, Chris Moore and Shaq Washington did most of the damage to the Tigers' secondary. Morrison's stat line was 9/162/2, Moore went for 5/153/1, and Washington went for 9/120/1. Their receiving core is deep, talented, explosive, and will be looking forward to the chance of racking up big plays against the best opponent they will face all regular season.
As for Miami's secondary, they will be without starting safety Deon Bush, and also without safety Jamal Carter for the first half due to targeting penalties they each received against Nebraska. Per rule, if a targeting call is confirmed in the second half of any game, that player is suspended for the first half of the next game. With this offense the Miami defense will face, it can leave you with an uneasy feeling. The defense will have to force Cincy to become one dimensional like they did last season, the defensive line will need to get consistent pressure, and the Canes corners will need to play big, fast, and smart. Cincinnati also ran 90+ plays in last week's game, so this will definitely show the conditioning level Miami is at. The Canes can ill afford to not give maximum effort for four quarters, especially after a bye.
Artie Burns, Tracy Howard, Corn Elder, Rayshawn Jenkins, and Cam's boy Dallas Crawford are going to have to play some of their best football in the first half with the absences of Bush and Carter. Elder (who, personally, is the best corner) and Burns should have good games against this competition, and will get plenty of chances to make their mark on this football game. Howard, on the other hand, has struggled since his sophomore campaign when it looked him the then-sophomore was ready to break out. Crawford seems to be a step too slow at times and is often whiffing on tackles and has caused major frustration among the fanbase. In the end, the Canes will have to force Cincy into third-and-long situations to make their jobs easier and force QB Hayden Moore into making poor decisions.
Last season, this game wasn't much of a contest once the two teams finally met on the field. Miami dominated the entire game and proved to be too much to handle for the Bearcats. This season, Miami will be on the road in a hostile environment on primetime TV. This will be Miami's first road contest of the year, so Miami will get a good test to see what type of team they have before conference play opens up.
This game also opens up an absolutely brutal October for the Canes, as they are at Cincinnati, at FSU, vs. VT, vs. Clemson, and at Duke. Not exactly murderers row, but also not an ideal lineup for the Canes. On paper, this game unanimously goes to Miami. The game will be a battle of the secondaries. Essentially, which one performs better when the lights shine brightest? The Hurricanes will certainly have their hands full defending this uptempo "air-raid" offense of Cincinnati, but Miami will be too much for the Bearcats to handle. I wouldn't go as far to say expect a shootout, but definitely expect points to be scored...and a lot of them. As for a prediction...Miami-52 Cincinnati-38.