Miami hasn’t won a bowl game since 2006 in something called the MPC Computers and Bowl against Nevada. In Mark Richt’s first year this is a monkey he’d like to get off of the program’s back in year 1.
West Virginia is a formidable opponent to get this done against. Dana Holgorsen runs a balanced attack on offense that depends on running backs in a multitude of ways and an emphasis on slot receivers. Justin Crawford is their tote back with 1168 yards on the ground with 4 touchdowns. Shelton Gibson is their big play receiver with over 900 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. When you think of Big 12 offenses you think only of air raid offenses. While they will drop back and pitch it around they are as balanced as a Big 12 team gets this side of Oklahoma. They put up over 500 yards a game but Miami will be one of the best they have seen all year.
In their first bowl games as college players, Miami’s three freshman linebackera will play a huge role in breaking a streak of bowl losses that started when they were in middle school. Shaq Quarterman will have to be a bull in run game while Mike Pickney and Zach McCloud will have to be all over the field in coverage while clogging their run lanes. Manny Diaz has done an incredible job with the defense overall but I am particularly impressed with how he has brought this unit along.
When injuries and a suspension made these guys take the field as true freshman some thought it was disastrous. Other than some busted coverages early in the season it has been anything but. Quarterman was tied for the team in tackles (79 with Jamal Carter) and will continue to lead the core. Pickney has been mentioned as a top freshman by Pro Football Focus every week since week 3, and McCloud has been a mad man this last half of the season, ending with a career-high 6 tackles in the win over Duke.
I expect this group to end a bowl streak they know little about...and start a new streak of their own.